Hawaii begins rollout of Johnson & Johnson, Moderna COVID booster shots

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — On Thursday, Oct. 21, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director approved COVID booster recommendations from the agency’s advisory panel. Effective immediately, Hawaii residents who received two Moderna doses or the single Johnson & Johnson shot can get their COVID-19 booster if they are eligible.

“Boosters doses are common for many vaccines and will provide additional protection to Hawaii residents at higher risk for severe illness or occupational exposure,” said Hawaii State Director of Health Dr. Elizabeth Char, FACEP.

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“Boosters are expected to be widely available across the state, and CDC’s mix-and-match policy will allow for additional flexibility. DOH’s first priority will remain encouraging unvaccinated Hawaii residents to complete their initial vaccine series.”

Hawaii State Director of Health Dr. Elizabeth Char

For Moderna vaccine recipients, a single booster dose is recommended for certain populations at least six months after the second dose:

Moderna booster doses are half of an initial dose.

For Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients, a single booster dose is recommended for everyone who received the J&J at least two months after the first dose. Recipients can also elect to receive a single booster dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

Mixing and matching of all U.S.-approved COVID-19 vaccines are allowed. Interchangeability of shots will provide additional flexibility. Doctors said all vaccines are effective in reducing the risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death — even against the delta variant.

The Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) said that the first and second doses of the COVID vaccine will be prioritized over any booster doses. Individuals who are unsure if they qualify for a booster should check with their healthcare provider.

A National Institutes of Health study found that a Pfizer or Moderna booster after a Johnson & Johnson dose raised antibody levels more than two doses of J&J.

 “I think J&J people are going to be in a really good spot,” said Lt. Gov. Josh Green. “They can choose from any of the three boosters and be kind of in the clear.”

Doctors suggested men under 30 who received Johnson & Johnson or are concerned about a rare heart-related side effect should get the J&J booster — but it is the opposite for women.

“For young women or women of childbearing age — so under 50 or so — there’s a risk of clotting with J&J,” explained Dr. Melinda Ashton, executive vice president at Hawaii Pacific Health. “So, if you originally got a J&J shot, you might want to switch to Pfizer or Moderna.”

The Moderna booster shot will be half of what the original dose was.

“So, there is a thinking that perhaps the risk of myocarditis might be less anyway because it’s going to be a lower dose,” Dr. Ashton explained.

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Doctors said people 65 and older and those at-risk should get their boosters as soon as possible, including those who received J&J in early 2021.

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