Scientists are continuously working to ensure the COVID-19 vaccine provides the best possible protection against the virus, which includes updating the vaccine formula to account for any new variants of the virus.
The CDC and FDA recently approved the newest version of the COVID-19 vaccine, which helps to protect individuals against the most recent variant of the virus.
To explain the latest change to the COVID-19 vaccine and what it means for the upcoming winter season, we asked Jennifer Gutowski, Associate Director of Infection Prevention with Rochester Regional Health for her insight.
Pfizer and Moderna updated their COVID-19 vaccines to include a monovalent (single) component that helps to protect people from a recent COVID-19 variant.
This updated COVID-19 vaccine will replace the current COVID-19 vaccine, which was bivalent – meaning it had two components to help a person’s immune system fight off COVID-19: one targeting the original COVID-19 virus and one targeting the Omicron variant.
In a statement released by the FDA, health officials said unless a particularly severe variant of COVID-19 develops, they believe the composition of COVID-19 vaccines may need to be updated annually – similar to how the influenza vaccine is updated each year.
For people who choose to get the updated COVID-19 dose, the side effects remain the same as previous vaccines: pain or redness at the injection site, low-grade fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, and/or fatigue. These side effects almost always go away after 24-48 hours.
According to the CDC, the updated COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for everyone ages 6 months and older. People whose immune systems are compromised due to illnesses or serious health conditions are strongly encouraged to get an updated dose of the vaccine for the upcoming fall and winter months.
Children ages 6 months to 4 years who have had at least 1 dose of a Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine will need to receive either 1 or 2 doses, depending which vaccine they received and when it was administered.
Children ages 6 months to 4 years who have not received any doses of a COVID-19 vaccine yet can receive either 3 doses of the Pfizer vaccine or 2 doses of the Moderna vaccine.
People ages 5 years and older who have not received a COVID vaccine dose or booster in the last two months are eligible to receive the updated vaccine.
Most local pharmacies and drug stores like CVS, Walgreens, and Kinney Drug have the updated COVID vaccine and are already scheduling appointments.
Many primary care providers offer the COVID vaccine at their offices, but it is best to contact your own primary care provider to see if you can get your dose at an appointment or if they are holding a clinic.
Most people are able to receive the vaccine for free, as insurance plans cover the cost of the COVID-19 vaccine. For those who are uninsured, local community health centers and the CDC’s Bridge Access Program is offering free COVID-19 vaccines at some local pharmacies.
“Even if you have had COVID-19 and have some immunity from the virus, getting the COVID vaccine provides an extra layer of protection against getting sick with the virus again,” Gutowski said. “Taking 30 minutes out of your day to get the shot is better than the alternative.”
Even though the U.S. is no longer living in a public health emergency, COVID-19 cases continue to happen in all of our communities. The best ways to protect yourself against the virus are washing your hands thoroughly, properly ventilating indoor spaces, wearing a mask when appropriate, and staying up to date on your COVID-19 vaccine.Read More About the COVID-19 Vaccine
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