Approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you won’t have to wait long to receive your updated Covid-19 vaccine. Major pharmacy chains have begun scheduling vaccine appointments.
The manufacturers say the modified mRNA vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech are effective against EG.5, the strain currently dominant in the United States, as well as other emerging variants.
Health officials are urging people to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise and the threat of other respiratory viruses, including influenza and RSV, looms this fall. For the first time, vaccines are available against all three.
Here’s what you need to know about when and where to get the vaccines you need to stay healthy.
Who should be vaccinated?
According to the CDC, everyone over 6 months of age should receive an updated Covid-19 vaccine.
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a panel of experts that advises the agency on vaccines, said Tuesday that everyone age 5 and older should receive at least one dose of an updated vaccine. of mRNA against Covid-19. 19 this year.
Children aged 6 months to 4 years who are receiving their vaccines for the first time should receive two doses of the Moderna vaccine and three doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, and at least one of the doses should be updated vaccine.
The committee also recommends that people with moderate or severe immunodeficiency receive at least three doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, and at least one of the doses is an updated shot. They also have the option of receiving an additional updated vaccine later this year.
The committee has not yet decided whether people 65 and older will need another dose of the updated vaccine in a few months. Most seniors were eligible to receive the second dose of the bivalent Covid-19 vaccine last spring.
“The committee is very committed to equity, to ensure that everyone in our diverse country has access to the vaccine,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. and former medical director of the nonprofit National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.
That means recommending higher doses for people at higher risk of getting seriously ill, such as people 65 and older, people with weakened immune systems or underlying conditions, and people living in nursing homes or pregnant women.
These people will benefit the most from the new vaccines, according to Dr. Dan Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, who was not involved in the development of the new shots, but previously helped study the vaccine at Johnson & Johnson.
“The main goal of these vaccines is to reduce the risk of severe disease, which is an important goal, but these agents are unlikely to provide overt protection against infection and may have a moderate effect. in mild disease.” he said. “And so these boosters are likely to be important for people at high risk of the disease.”
Influenza and RSV are also expected to spread this fall and winter, creating a triple threat of lung infections.
Annual flu shots are available now and the CDC recommends them for everyone 6 months and older in September and October, especially children, people with health problems, pregnant women, and those old man
There are also two vaccines against respiratory syncytial virus, known as RSV, available for people age 60 and older. Both are single dose vaccines. Schaffner urged everyone in that age group to get vaccinated against RSV, adding that the virus “causes a lot of respiratory illnesses” like the flu every year.
When to get vaccinated
The time to receive the updated Covid-19 vaccine depends on when you received the last one, Schaffner said. Those who received their last Covid-19 vaccine a few months or more ago should receive it in the coming weeks: late September to October.
But people who have recently received the bivalent Covid-19 vaccine or have recently been infected with the virus should wait a little longer, he said.
“They have to wait about three months to get the maximum benefit from the booster,” Schaffner said. “Most vaccines like this take about 10 days to develop full protection and of course it improves every day.”
That’s how long it takes for the body to start circulating the antibodies through the bloodstream, he said. If you have a trip or important event coming up, Schaffner says, “give it at least a week, even two weeks is better.”
For RSV, the CDC encourages doctors to provide the new vaccines as soon as possible. Flu shots should be administered in the month of October, Schaffner said, preferably before Halloween, a practice called “flu before the boo.”
According to Schaffner, it is perfectly safe for people to receive the flu vaccine and the Covid-19 vaccine on the same day, usually one in each arm. He added that the new RSV vaccines can also be administered at the same time as other vaccines, per CDC recommendations.
However, Schaffner says, “people don’t need to be vaccinated at the same time. If they want to spread it, it’s completely understandable.”
However, Schaffner warns that “a delayed vaccine, unfortunately, is usually a vaccine that was never received. Therefore, you must encourage yourself to seek the vaccine. You must go to your doctor’s office or pharmacy two or three times to make sure you get all the vaccines you deserve.”
Where to get vaccinated
The new Covid-19 vaccine will be available in some retail pharmacies by the end of the week.
“We expect CVS Pharmacy locations to begin receiving supplies of the new COVID-19 vaccines later this week,” CVS said in a statement to CNN. “Our pharmacies will continue to accept them on an ongoing basis.”
Currently, patients can make an appointment for the Covid-19 vaccine on the CVS and Walgreens websites.
Walgreens chief medical officer Dr. Kevin Ban said in a statement this week: “Eligible individuals will be able to schedule appointments within 24 hours of the CDC’s recommendation.”
Available appointments will begin this week, Ban said, and “will continue as stores receive vaccines.”
Rite Aid will also have the new vaccine in stores soon. “Our online scheduler with appointments available for customers who wish to receive the updated COVID-19 vaccine will be available on Friday, September 15,” he said in a statement.
The vaccine is also available at doctors’ offices and federally qualified health centers.
Appointments for senior flu and RSV vaccines are now available at CVS and Walgreens, as well as other retailers, and at local doctor’s offices and health clinics.
Cost of the vaccine
Most people with health insurance can get their updated Covid-19 vaccine at their doctor’s office or at a pharmacy, such as CVS or Walgreens, free of charge. Under the Affordable Care Act, most insurance plans cover the full cost of updated Covid-19 vaccines with no copays.
People who are uninsured (about 28 million Americans, according to KFF) or underinsured can still access the updated Covid-19 vaccine for free.
They are eligible to receive free Covid-19 vaccines through the government’s Bridge Access Program, which provides vaccines at federally qualified health departments and health clinics. Bridge Access providers will be added to the Vaccines.gov website this week, helping people find places to receive free vaccines.
CVS and Walgreens said they will offer the latest Covid-19 vaccine through the program.
Children from low-income families can receive free vaccines through the CDC’s Vaccines for Children program.
Flu vaccines will continue to be available at no cost through most insurance plans, including Obamacare. Medicare Part B also covers flu vaccines for adults age 65 and older.
New RSV vaccines for seniors may require a prescription and may not be covered by insurance. Otherwise, the injections cost about $300. Schaffner said anyone concerned about coverage should contact their insurance company for guidance.