Sep 29, 2021
Top COVID-19 news
Amid the pandemic, news is fast-moving – and sometimes confusing. Coverage is here to help. Our new series provides a clear, fact-based digest of the top news for health consumers.
Boosters authorized for people 65+ and others at risk
The FDA has authorized COVID booster shots for certain Pfizer-BioNTech recipients at least six months after their second shot, finding the third shot increases levels of antibodies and may help strengthen protection in populations at high-risk for exposure or complications from severe disease. The CDC recommends people 65 years and older as well as people aged 50–64 years with underlying medical conditions and residents in long-term care settings should receive a booster shot. It also states people aged 18–49 years with underlying medical conditions, or aged 18-64 years and at increased risk because of their workplace or or institutional setting, may receive a booster shot, based on their individual benefits and risks. A third shot is already available to organ transplant recipients and other immunocompromised people, and Pfizer had sought approval to make the booster available to all adults, but an advisory panel concluded boosters were not necessary for most younger, healthier Americans. The initial vaccine doses continue to provide robust protection against severe illness. Studies are ongoing into whether boosters are needed and effective for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines as well.
How can I get one? The booster shots are available at pharmacies and other locations. Like other COVID vaccinations, they are covered by insurance with no out-of-pocket costs and available free of charge to anyone without insurance. You can check your eligibility here and sign up for an appointment in Massachusetts through VaxFinder or by calling 211. Booster appointments also can be scheduled through pharmacies, including CVS or Walgreens.
Child vaccine clinical trial findings
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine is safe and highly effective in kids aged 5 to 11 years, the companies announced this week after clinical trials including 2,268 children. The kids who received the vaccine had few side effects and produced a strong immune response, with levels of antibodies similar to those in vaccinated teens and young adults. Kids were given two shots three weeks apart, with a third of the dosage given to older people. The companies will soon apply to the Food and Drug Administration for authorization and if successful, millions of U.S. children could be eligible to get the shot before Halloween.
What factors will the FDA consider? Scientists at the FDA will weigh the benefits of the vaccine against the risk of side effects. The review comes at a critical time in the pandemic: Kids have a much lower risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19 than adults, but they now account for more than 1 in 5 new COVID cases, and the highly contagious Delta variant has sent more children into hospitals in recent weeks than at any other time since the outbreak began. Some infected children develop a rare, life-threatening condition called multi-system inflammatory syndrome, and others have symptoms that linger for months. Children are as likely as adults to transmit the virus to others, and more likely to do so than adults older than 60, according to a recent review of the evidence by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Reminder: Testing can help prevent viral spread
Testing, in addition to COVID-19 vaccination, is a safe, effective way to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and help keep schools open for in-person learning. You should get a test for COVID-19 if you develop any symptoms of COVID-19, even if they are mild, or if you are a close contact of someone who has tested positive.
Where can I get tested? Testing is widely available in Massachusetts, including at many pharmacies, schools, and at home. Tests are covered by health insurance with no out-of-pocket cost when they are ordered by a health care provider and meet CDC guidelines. The Commonwealth also has launched free drive-through testing sites, open to all Massachusetts residents over the age of 12 months old, with or without symptoms or approval from a health care provider. No insurance or ID is necessary.
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