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New COVID-19 boosters are rolling out to N.H. pharmacies, other health providers

Vaccine sign in New Hampshire
Todd Bookman
/
NHPR
The updated shots target now-dominant Omicron subvariants.

New COVID-19 boosters are starting to roll out in New Hampshire, after federal regulators signed off on them last week.

Major pharmacy chains — including CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid — are booking appointments online for the new boosters, with some locations already offering the shots or doing so over the next few days. Other providers say they’ll likely start next week.

The boosters are updates of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. They’re designed to target the versions of the virus that now dominate in the U.S., the Omicron variant’s BA.4 and BA.5 lineages.

New Hampshire has ordered 93,400 doses of the reformulated boosters, of which 16,000 have already shipped to pharmacies and health care providers, according to Jake Leon, a spokesperson for the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. He said the remaining orders should arrive this week.

Last week, the FDA authorized the updated vaccines for use as boosters at least two months after a person’s last shot. In guidance released Tuesday, the state health department recommended waiting at least three months “to maximize immune protection and minimize side effects,” but said that decision should be based on each individual’s risk factors.

The Pfizer booster is authorized for people 12 and up, the Moderna one for adults.

Representatives for pharmacy companies encouraged customers to make appointments online. They said some stores would roll out the shots sooner than others.

CVS locations are receiving the boosters “on a rolling basis over the next few days and weeks,” according to spokesperson Amy Thibault.

Hannaford has made the boosters available only at certain locations to date because of “initial supply limitations,” spokesperson Caitlin Cortelyou said. “We expect availability to expand in the coming weeks.”

Several health care providers said they are still waiting on doses but hope to start offering the new boosters soon.

With the original vaccines no longer approved for use as boosters, the Dartmouth Health system canceled existing appointments and will reschedule those patients for an updated shot when it’s available, spokesperson Cassidy Smith said. She said the hospital system should receive doses of the new boosters late this week, and could start administering them next week.

In the North Country, Coos County Family Health Services also expects a delivery of vaccines this week. Chief Operating Officer Valerie Hart said the health center plans to start holding booster clinics next week in Berlin.

Dr. Alex Granok, an infectious disease physician at Southern New Hampshire Medical Center in Nashua, recommended that people get boosters once they’re eligible. He said it could make a difference this fall, especially when it comes to blunting more severe cases of the disease.

“Distribution of the booster, especially as we head into colder months, when people tend to be going indoors and congregating indoors as opposed to outdoors — I do you think we'll see a decrease in the number of patients who actually end up hospitalized,” he said.

Locations offering COVID-19 vaccines can be found at vaccines.gov.

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