Photo courtesy of the Maryland Department of Health.

Maryland health officials have formally authorized use of new single-dose COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to provide stronger protection against the omicron variant, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Friday.

The boosters are bivalent vaccines, meaning they are meant to target multiple strains of the virus – in this case the original COVID-19 strain as well as the omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Hub.

“This new bivalent booster shot is another important tool in our toolbox to help Marylanders stay COVIDReady,” Hogan said in a statement.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) both approvaed the new bivalent boosters from Pfizer and Moderna.

Pfizer’s new bivalent booster shot is available to Marylanders age 12 and older, while Moderna’s booster is available to residents age 18 and older. For both boosters, recipients must have received their last dose at least two months ago.

“Federal health officials expect to approve updated booster shots for other pediatric groups in the coming weeks,” Maryland officials said.

The state health department preordered a total of 157,600 bivalent boosters, including 114,000 made by Pfizer and 43,600 made by Moderna.

The state has begun rolling out doses to local health departments, health centers, and medical providers statewide. The federal government has also sent shots directly to pharmacy partners. State officials expect the new shot to begin widely after Labor Day.

The state has administered nearly 12.9 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, including booster shots, to date, according to the state’s vaccine dashboard.

Nearly three out of five Marylanders age 12 or older who are eligible to get a booster shot have received at least one, the state reports.

Maryland’s vaccine call center will begin a new call- and text-based campaign next week to inform residents about the bivalent boosters.

Residents can contact the call center at 1-855-634-6829 to find a vaccine provider, schedule a vaccination appointment, or to learn about homebound vaccination or rideshare options for individuals with difficulty getting to a vaccination site.

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Marcus Dieterle

Marcus Dieterle is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He returned to Baltimore in 2020 after working as the deputy editor of the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Md. He can be reached at marcus@baltimorefishbowl.com...