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Where to get COVID vaccine boosters in Michigan

vaccines
In the latest in a flurry of federal announcements, the CDC recommended Moderna and J & J boosters. (Bridge file photo by Dale Young.)

Nov. 19: As COVID rises, CDC approves boosters for all adults, Michigan urges masks
Nov. 17: 5 million Michiganders are vaccinated and COVID is surging. Here’s why

Nov. 15: 'Are you vaccinated?' and other new Thanksgiving traditions in Michigan

With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s approval Thursday of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine boosters, getting an added shot should be relatively easy for vaccinated people across Michigan.

Gone are the days when all three U.S.-approved vaccines (the Pfizer booster was approved in September) to protect against COVID-19 were in short supply. Getting a booster will likely be a low-stress affair for those who are eligible.

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Michiganders will simply need to call a local vaccine provider — a vaccination clinic, physician’s office, hospital or health department — and schedule an appointment, several providers and health department officials told Bridge Michigan. (To find vaccines near you, follow this link here.)

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Providers around the state have ample doses, said Gilbert “Butch” Bowlby, system director of pharmacy at Traverse City-based Munson Healthcare.

“Everybody's got (vaccines), and it's really not going to be a big deal in my opinion,” Bowlby said. “The Pfizer boosters have already rolled out, and this will just open it up for everybody, even if they got Moderna or Johnson & Johnson.”

The Moderna booster — which was approved to be given as a half-dose of the original shot — can be drawn from the doses already on hand, he said.

 Gilbert “Butch” Bowlby,
With COVID vaccines readily available across the state, Michiganders should be able to get boosters relatively easily, said Gilbert “Butch” Bowlby, Munson Healthcare’s system director of pharmacy.

“We literally will be drawing half a dose from the same vial,” Bowlby said.

Getting a booster is made even easier by the fact that people can choose any of the three boosters, regardless of which vaccine they chose initially.

Thursday’s CDC approvals are the latest in a series of federal decisions by regulators and advisors as the Biden administration moves to dramatically open up additional doses to everyone.

The CDC approved:

  • A Moderna booster at least six months after the initial series for anyone who is 65 or older and for adults 18 and older who live in long-term care settings, have underlying medical conditions or who work or live in high-risk settings
  • J & J booster at least two months after an initial dose of the one-dose vaccine to anyone 18 and older.
  • Allowing vaccinated people to mix and match boosters, saying that doing so has proven safe and effective. 

The mix-and-match approach creates more flexibility for people, particularly whose local providers may not carry all three vaccines. 

Beaumont Health, for example, has ample Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to administer, but it no longer carries J & J vaccines, said Mike Henry, senior operations projects manager at Beaumont. And the system, like many across the state, continues to struggle to get enough staff to administer doses, so clinic hours are restricted.

 

Beaumont patients and others may have to wait a few days for a booster or turn to another source, he said.

“And we’re fine with that,” Henry said, of those who bypass Beaumont for another booster provider. “We have to focus our efforts on patients in the hospital.”

Approval of all three vaccine boosters represents a victory for the Biden administration, which pushed to make boosters broadly available to the public as the pandemic continues. The number of newly confirmed Michigan cases has fallen slightly this week. But the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services also reported Wednesday 135 COVID-19 more deaths. There have been 553 deaths tied to COVID reported so far in October; in September, 823 deaths were linked to COVID-19.

Michigan residents considering which booster to get may want to talk to their pharmacist first, said Dr. Laraine Washer, an infectious disease specialist at University of Michigan’s Michigan Medicine.

Until now, CDC guidelines generally forced individuals getting second doses, third doses (for immunocompromised people), or boosters, to receive vaccines from the same manufacturer. In rare instances, individuals in the early days of the vaccine rollout may have had two different vaccines.

The science of using a different vaccine for a booster is promising, although the research data remains limited, Washer cautioned.

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One study suggested that people who originally received the single-dose J & J vaccine and then took a Moderna booster saw a 76-fold increase in protective antibodies, compared to just a four-fold increase for those who received both initial and booster doses of J & J. The study was relatively small, though, with just 458 people.

It’s not yet certain that higher antibodies will mean better protection, Washer noted.

“There's good reason to believe that there is some correlation there” between higher numbers of antibodies and immunity, she said. “But we don't have that effectiveness data.”

Michiganders should bring their COVID-19 vaccine card or immunization record when getting booster dose, even if their records may be on the provider's file. Immunization records for doses administered in-state can be retrieved free of charge through the Michigan Immunization Portal. Users must create a MILogin account and upload a valid government issued photo ID such as a driver's license, state ID or passport. If a person received initial doses out of state, they should contact that provider.

An FDA panel will consider initial vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds at its meeting Oct. 26, and the CDC’s Advisory Committee of Immunization Practices, which determines who will be eligible for vaccines and when, is scheduled to meet Nov. 2 to discuss vaccine approval for younger children. 

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