Laurie Gayda, a vaccinator with Rescue Inc., gives Lola McGinnis, 12, of Bellows Falls, Vt., the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as her sister, Lola, 12, waits for her shot on May 24.

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BRATTLEBORO — Health Commissioner Mark Levine expects a rollout of booster shots against COVID-19 to roughly follow the roadmap used for initial vaccinations, where timing was guided by age and vulnerability.

“We have already been planning for this type of event,” Mike Smith, secretary of the Agency of Human Services, said at the governor’s weekly news conference on Tuesday.

The Biden Administration is expected to announce that booster shots should be administered to most Americans eight months after they are fully vaccinated with two-dose vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer. Smith said the federal government anticipates the effort will begin around the middle to late September and state officials will provide more details in upcoming weeks.

Third shots for immunocompromised Vermonters are available now. Levine views the shots as opportunities to mount a sufficient autoimmune response in the approximately 3 percent of the U.S. adult population eligible for them.

New guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says moderately to severely immunocompromised people should receive a shot at least four weeks after the two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. That “additional dose could reduce serious or life-threatening COVID,” Levine said.

A third shot can now be administered by a person’s clinician who is registered in the state’s vaccination program and at a pharmacy chain or a pop-up clinic. Levine said patients must “self attest” they are eligible under the guidelines for the immunocompromised, and he hopes people would respect that and not get the third shot for conditions that do not yet make them eligible.

Eligible are those in active treatment for solid tumor and hematologic malignancies; recipients of solid-organ transplant and taking immunosuppressive therapy; recipients of CAR-T-cell or hematopoietic stem cell transplant; those with moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency such as DiGeorge syndrome or Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome and advanced or untreated HIV infection; and those being actively treated with high-dose corticosteroids, alkylating agents, antimetabolites, transplant-related immunosuppressive drugs, cancer chemotherapeutic agents classified as severely immunosuppressive, tumor-necrosis (TNF) blockers and other biologic agents that are immunosuppressive or immunomodulatory.

Brattleboro Memorial Hospital set up a COVID-19 testing and vaccination clinic last month. Part of the plan was to be prepared for mass vaccination if booster shots were needed.

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Data is still being gathered on whether a booster will be advised for those who have taken the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Levine said.

About 85.1 percent of eligible Vermonters have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. A booster shot could “help maintain a high level of protection against COVID-19,” Pfizer said in a statement reported on by CNN.

State data for fully vaccinated people shows 630 people or 0.15 percent tested positive for the virus, 18 or .004 percent were hospitalized and eight or 0.002 percent died.

“I share this today not to sugarcoat anything but to reinforce vaccines are working,” Gov. Phil Scott said.

Michael Pieciak, commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation, said cases are still on the rise nationally but there are encouraging signs as the rate of increase week over week continues to slow. Cases in the U.S. increased by 19 percent last week compared to 38 percent the week before and 54 percent a week prior.

For the Northeast, the numbers increased by 19 percent last week compared to 44 percent the week before and 58 percent the week prior. Vermont’s numbers increased by 41 percent last week compared to 83 percent the week before and 71 percent the week prior.

Pieciak said cases are beginning to hit a peak associated with the Delta variant.


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