As we head into a new cold, flu, and COVID season, there’s major news on the vaccine front: the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a new COVID booster shot, which is expected to be available in a few days, pending final approval from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s welcome news, considering that COVID hospitalizations and deaths are back on the rise in the US — just as school is getting back in session and the weather is getting ready to turn.
The FDA approved the new boosters from both Moderna and Pfizer and authorized both for emergency use today, stating that the vaccines “are a good match for protecting against the currently circulating COVID-19 variants,” including EG.5 (aka Eris) and BA.2.86. In recent weeks, the CDC identified Eris as the top strain going around the US, causing about 22 percent of cases at the end of August. BA.2.86, meanwhile, has been identified in several US states, but the CDC doesn’t currently view it as a driving force behind the current COVID spike.
Most of the information around who can get this booster, and where you can get it, will look familiar. Keep reading for everything you and your family should know about the latest COVID boosters.
Who can get the new COVID boosters?
The updated COVID-19 boosters are approved for ages 12 and above, the FDA reports. The vaccines are also authorized under emergency use for children between the ages of 6 months and 11 years old.
For people above the age of 5, previous vaccination status has no bearing on whether you can get the new vaccine; you’re eligible whether you’ve received every available booster, or whether this will be your first. For kids younger the age of 5, it’s a little different. Children from 6 months to 4 years old who have already been vaccinated against COVID “are eligible to receive one or two doses” of the new booster, the FDA says. The timing and number of doses are dependent on the previous COVID-19 vaccine(s) they’ve received. Children in the same age range who have not been vaccinated against COVID are “eligible to receive three doses of the updated authorized Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine or two doses of the updated authorized Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine.”
A CDC advisory committee is set to meet on Tuesday to discuss clinical recommendations for who should receive the new vaccines, according to the press release. After the advisory committee approves them, the vaccines will be sent around the country for distribution.
How much will the new COVID boosters cost?
This round of COVID vaccines will not be covered by the federal government. If you have insurance and get your vaccine from an in-network provider, it should be free; out-of-network, you may have some cost.
If you don’t have insurance, you should be able to get a free booster at a community health center, according to NBC News. A “bridge” program from the Biden administration should also give uninsured people access to free boosters at least until the end of the year.
Make sure to check your insurance status and familiarize yourself with these resources before you make an appointment. The list price of the vaccine may be around $110 to $130 if you’re paying out-of-pocket, Pfizer said last year.
Are the new COVID boosters required for work and school?
Whether you or your kids will be required to get the new COVID vaccines depends on your workplace and their school, and may also be affected by where you live. There is no federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate and according to the National Academy For State Health Policy, no state is currently enforcing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for schools.
Do the new COVID boosters work?
The FDA states that the new COVID vaccines work as well at protecting you against the current predominant variants as previous iterations protected against the dominant variants at that time. In other words, the vaccines are as effective as we’re used to. Similarly, the FDA states that you can expect to experience similar side effects as previous COVID vaccines (which can include headache, chills, fever, nausea, and pain at the injection point).
While it may feel like the COVID-19 pandemic is a thing of the past, the increasing number of hospitalizations and deaths show that unfortunately, that’s still not the case. Vaccination is still “critical” to public health and protection against severe COVID-19, said Peter Marks, MD, PhD, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, in the FDA’s press release. The new boosters “have met the agency’s rigorous scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality,” he states. “We very much encourage those who are eligible to consider getting vaccinated.”
Before you go, check out these natural products for kids’ cold relief: