The Pfizer vaccine was offered at a free drive-up event held at the Hanging Moss Road Church of Christ Saturday, September 18, 2021 in Jackson. No one showed up to receive the vaccine. The event was hosted by Mississippi Faith in Action, Healthy Eating Active Living (H.E.A.L.) and Pastor Curtis Pittman. Credit: Vickie D. King/Mississippi Today

Hundreds of thousands of Mississippians are now eligible to get a COVID-19 booster shot if they want one and can choose which one to get, the Mississippi State Department of Health announced on Thursday.

The department aligned its guidance on COVID-19 vaccine booster shots with the new policies approved last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.

County health departments will begin offering booster shots of the Moderna vaccine on Nov. 1. Pfizer boosters have already been available since late September. Johnson & Johnson boosters will not be available at county health departments, but are available through many of MSDH’s vaccine partners and pharmacies across the state. 

Anyone who meets the eligibility criteria for a booster can request one of a different type than the one used for their primary vaccine regimen. For example, studies have shown that people who receive a mRNA booster after receiving the one-dose J&J vaccine see a much higher increase in their antibody levels than those who received a J&J booster. 

Though people can mix and match their booster if they so choose, the qualifiers and time frame for getting them are different depending on which booster you choose. 

“If you think that you fall into one of those categories, we encourage you to get a booster… We encourage you to discuss it with your physician if you’re not sure that you meet one of those criteria,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers. 

Anyone age 18 years and older who received the J&J vaccine is eligible for a booster two months after their one-dose regimen. 

Those who have received their second dose of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least six months ago, and fall into one of the categories below, are eligible for a booster dose.

  • Adults aged 65 years and older
  • Long-term care facility residents
  • Adults aged 18 and older with certain underlying medical conditions. These include:
    • Chronic kidney disease
    • Chronic lung diseases (COPD, asthma, etc.)
    • Dementia or other neurological conditions
    • Diabetes (type 1 or 2)
    • Down syndrome
    • Heart conditions (such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies)
    • Hypertension
    • Liver disease
    • Overweight, obesity or severe obesity (body mass index (BMI) over 25 kg/m2)
    • Pregnancy
    • Sickle cell disease or thalassemia
    • Smoking (current or former)
    • Stroke
    • Substance abuse disorders
    • Other medical conditions determined by a medical provider
  • Adults aged 18 and older that work in high risk settings that increase their risk of exposure. This includes:
    • First responders (healthcare workers, firefighters, police, congregate care staff)
    • Education staff (teachers, support staff, daycare workers)
    • Food and agriculture workers
    • Manufacturing workers
    • Corrections workers
    • U.S. Postal Service workers
    • Public transit workers
    • Grocery store workers

READ MORE: Just 15.6% of all Mississippi nursing homes have staff vaccination rates of 75% or more

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Will Stribling covers healthcare and breaking news for Mississippi Today.