While administration of the updated COVID-19 booster has slowed down since it was approved over six months ago, Mainers’ uptake of the omicron-fighting shots ranks among the highest in the country, data shows.

In August, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized Pfizer-BioNTech’s bivalent COVID-19 vaccine for use as a single booster dose in individuals 12 years and older and Moderna’s vaccine for adults 18 and up.

The next day, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s advisory panel on vaccinations recommended that all eligible adults get the omicron-targeting updated booster shot and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky adopted the recommendation.

As of last month, all individuals 6 months and older are eligible to receive an updated, or bivalent booster shot, regardless of whether they received Pfizer or Moderna for their primary series.

“Currently available data shows that vaccination remains the best defense against severe disease, hospitalization and death caused by COVID-19 across all age groups,” Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in a news release March 14.

“We encourage all eligible individuals to make sure that their vaccinations are up to date with a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine,” he said.


The CDC states that for an individual to be considered up to date on their COVID immunizations, they should get the bivalent booster as soon as they are eligible.

Despite strong recommendations from public health experts and evidence that the bivalent booster provides greater protection against hospitalization and death than even the original booster shots, uptake has been slow in Maine and across the country.

According to data from the CDC, adults 18 years and older who were unvaccinated were at 10.9 times higher risk of hospitalization and 7.9 times higher risk of death compared to those who had received their updated, bivalent booster.

Adults who were vaccinated but hadn’t gotten a bivalent booster still had nearly twice the risk of hospitalization and death compared to those who had the shot.

The latest genome sequencing report from the Maine CDC shows that omicron has accounted for 100% of all samples tested since at least December.

As of March 29, about 32% of all Maine residents 5 years and older have received their bivalent booster shots, while 84% have completed their primary vaccination series and 61% have gotten at least one shot of the original booster.


Uptake of the bivalent booster varied across the state and across age groups, however. Cumberland County had the highest vaccination rate across all age groups compared with Maine’s 15 other counties, while Piscataquis County had the lowest.

About a fourth of individuals 5 years and older residing in Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties have gotten their updated booster.

Despite these low numbers — especially when compared to the high percentage of Mainers who have received their primary vaccination series and at least one booster — Mainers’ uptake of the bivalent booster ranks among the highest in the country.

Only Vermont, the District of Columbia and Massachusetts, respectively, have a higher percentage of residents 5 years and older who have received the bivalent booster. Nationwide, less than a fifth of individuals 5 years and older have gotten the shot.

In the coming weeks, the FDA is expected to authorize a second bivalent shot for people who are at least 65 years old or who have weak immune systems, according to a report from The Washington Post. The booster will still need the federal  CDC’s vaccination advisory panel’s recommendation and the director’s approval before it would become available for eligible individuals.

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