COVID-19 booster shots for Moderna, Johnson & Johnson begin in Wisconsin. First dose for young children could be next

Public health officials prepare to give more shots with new federal approvals

A woman in a face mask closes her eyes as she receives a shot
Janesville School District speech and language pathologist Kay Knilans receives a COVID-19 booster vaccine Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021, at Franklin Middle School in Janesville, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Federal approval of booster shots for all three COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. is a welcome development for many, especially those with underlying medical conditions. Local health officials are preparing for an increase in demand.

Mark Maffitt, of Madison, is among those looking forward to getting a booster now that they are available to people who received different vaccines initially. The 63-year-old was treated with for kidney cancer in 2020 and already has his booster scheduled.

He originally got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which many proudly proclaimed as “the one and done” shot. When his concerned daughter snagged an appointment for that dose, Maffitt recalls, “I jumped on it.”

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For those with weakened or dysfunctional immune systems, the approval of a COVID-19 booster shot was a welcome development. In this 2018 photo, Mark Maffitt, cycled Arches National Park before being diagnosed with kidney cancer. Photo courtesy of Mark Maffitt

He is just as eager to get what will be his second shot. This time, it will be Moderna.

“I feel better about it. If I was told it was J&J I might have looked around,” Maffitt said.

While studies have shown that all the vaccines are highly effective against hospitalization and death from COVID-19, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine offered slightly less protection than those from Moderna or Pfizer.

And for Maffitt, who spent 2020 battling cancer and trying to fend off COVID-19, he now wants to stay healthy. His doctors told him there’s no sign of cancer after he completed immunotherapy, but they don’t know if he’s cured just yet.

Maffitt plans to get his COVID-19 booster at a pharmacy, but public health officials in Dane County have been offering Pfizer shots since Oct. 12 and were informed by state health officials Tuesday they could begin giving boosters for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

Public Health Madison & Dane County COVID-19 vaccine deputy Sarah Hughes points to a waiting area in the Arena at the Alliant Energy Center where people stay after getting a dose of COVID-19 vaccine. The health department offers first dose vaccines, booster shots and is awaiting approval to vaccinate kids 5-11 years old. Shamane Mills/ WPR

Dane County health officials are ready for a potentially large number of people coming in not only for booster shots, but also younger children who may soon be able to get their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. On Tuesday, an advisory panel of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration voted to recommend the Pfizer vaccine for children age 5-11.

“We really wanted to find a space that we could get those kids vaccinated as quickly as possible so the arena at the Alliant Energy Center really gives us this large space where we can vaccinate a lot of kids per day, so we can get them vaccinated as quickly as possible,” said Sarah Hughes, who is COVID-19 vaccine deputy at Public Health Madison & Dane County. The health department is also offering vaccine at its South Park Street and East Washington Avenue locations.