Arkansas Opens Boosters to All Adults as Regulators Weigh Expansion

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Arkansas on Monday joined Colorado, California and New Mexico in broadening access to Covid-19 boosters, getting ahead of federal regulators who are close to making a decision on expanded eligibility.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas said at a news conference on Monday that he had directed the state health department to issue new guidelines on boosters to allow all adults to get one, provided they meet the timing rules. The move made Arkansas the latest state to issue a decision on boosters ahead of a federal ruling.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas health department said it had updated its recommendations and would be advising health care providers that they can administer the boosters to an expanded pool of adults.

“What we’re finding is that we want more people to get their booster shot and that this is somewhat confusing and limiting as to the eligibility,” Mr. Hutchinson said, adding, “we’re changing that.”

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However, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office said that Mr. Hutchinson had no plans to issue an executive order to expand booster eligibility.

According to the health department guidelines, Arkansas adults are now eligible for the vaccine booster if it has been at least six months since their second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or at least two months since they received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

A growing body of early global research has shown that the vaccines remain highly protective against hospitalization and death, but that their effectiveness against infection wanes over time. Public health experts say this does not mean the vaccines are not working.

In mid-August, President Biden announced plans to make boosters available to all adults, but the beginning of the campaign was delayed after regulators said they needed more time to review data. Last week, Pfizer and BioNTech requested that the Food and Drug Administration expand eligibility of their booster to all adults, a request the agency is expected to grant before the winter holiday season.

Ahead of a formal recommendation from the federal authorities, several other states have taken different approaches to expand booster eligibility.

The governors of Colorado and New Mexico signed executive orders last week expanding eligibility to all adults. In California, Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, the state’s public health director, issued a letter last week that said eligibility was open to anyone 18 or over.

The authorities in New York and West Virginia on Monday encouraged all adults to get the booster, but stopped short of a formal policy change. New York City health officials told health providers to give booster shots to all adults who want them, a plea echoed by Gov. Kathy Hochul. In West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice said adults should “absolutely get” a booster.

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