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All Minnesota adults to become eligible for boosters this week

The state plans to move ahead with expanded booster eligibility, no matter what happens at the federal level.

ST PAUL, Minn. — All Minnesota adults will become eligible for COVID-19 booster shots by the end of the week, according to a plan announced by state health commissioner Jan Malcolm on Tuesday afternoon.

Malcolm said she hopes the federal government will work in tandem with Minnesota by expanding eligibility for all U.S. adults later this week. However, due to the "alarming surge" in cases locally, Malcolm said the state will not wait for the FDA and fully plans to move ahead independently with its own policy. 

"Our own data suggests that breakthrough cases are growing, not unexpectedly. The data are so compelling on the value of boosters to increase that level of protection, that we think it's quite urgent to move," Malcolm said. "As other states are doing, we intend to go ahead by the end of the week, but are hoping very much that that's a federal standard."

Due to waning immunity over time, booster shots are recommended to adults who got Moderna or Pfizer vaccines six months earlier or single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines two months earlier. It should be noted that all adult Johnson & Johnson recipients are already eligible for boosters in Minnesota, whereas Moderna and Pfizer recipients have previously needed to fit certain qualifications to receive third doses. 

So far, Minnesota has already administered more than 715,000 booster shots. That ranks second in the nation, Commissioner Malcolm said.

"Go get the vaccine. There's no downside," said Dr. Tim Schacker, the vice dean for research and an infectious disease physician at the University of Minnesota Medical School. "Going and getting that booster shot, is going to further protect you from getting seriously ill. But it's also going to ensure that you're less likely to transmit the virus to others." 

So far, about a half-dozen states and New York City have either announced or at least hinted at expanding booster eligibility. 

On Monday, Axios also reported that the Biden administration is "expected to begin the process" of expanding boosters later this week. Multiple national outlets have also pointed to the fact that the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which advises the CDC, has scheduled a meeting for Friday related to a request for approval from Pfizer.

Many other experts, including both Dr. Schacker and Dr. Peter Chin-Hong of the University of California San Francisco, said they also expect the federal government to authorize boosters for all adults. 

The FDA and CDC would have to sign off on such a plan.

"The writing is on the wall. I would be shocked if they don't put this into action nationally," said Dr. Chin-Hong, a professor of medicine and infectious disease specialist. "Winter is coming, and states are not content to wait, and wait for cases to go up, wait for hospitalizations to go up, wait for hospital resources to go. Rather than being reactive, they're actually going to be proactive."