New COVID omicron booster FAQ: when, how can you get it around Chicago, everything you need to know about bivalent vaccine
The new COVID-19 booster shots that target the strains of the virus that are now most prevalent should be available around Chicago in the coming days after the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave them the green light.
Here’s what you need to know.
Who can get it?
Anyone 12 or older who already has been vaccinated and whose latest coronavirus shot — the initial vaccination or a booster — was at least two months ago can get the new Pfizer omicron booster. And those 18 and older can receive the new Moderna vaccine.
Those are the two updated COVID boosters that have been approved.
It doesn’t matter which one you previously got. People who got the Pfizer shots before can get the Moderna booster now, and those who got the Moderna vaccine can get the Pfizer booster.
This is a booster. So, if you haven’t been vaccinated, you can’t get the new booster until after you’ve been.
When can I get it?
Shipments of the new vaccines were expected to reach Chicago and start being available after Labor Day.
Why should I get it?
The new boosters specifically target the newer, now most prevalent strains of the omicron variant of the virus, so they should offer more protection against those.
Even if you’re “fully vaccinated” — having gotten the initial two shots and two boosters — the protection against the coronavirus those offer wanes with time.
“Over time, vaccines become less effective at preventing infection,” says Dr. John Segreti, a Rush University Medical Center epidemiologist. “The hope is that it will be better at inducing immunity and preventing infections.”
How, where can I get it?
The boosters should be available through the same locations that already have been providing COVID shots: doctors’ offices, health clinics and pharmacies, including Walgreens and CVS, which let you schedule your shot through their websites and encourage people to do so, though walk- ins might be able to get the shots, too.
“We do our best to accommodate walk-in appointments as pharmacy team capacity allows and updated boosters are received,” a Walgreens spokeswoman says.
For availability, you can check the Chicago Department of Public Health’s vaccine-finder page or vaccines.gov.
“Appointment availability is expected to ramp up over several days, with appointments becoming more broadly available in a few weeks to months,” says Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck, the Cook County Department of Public Health’s chief operating officer.
Will I have to pay for it?
“The updated booster is available at no cost to any eligible patient either through insurance or if uninsured,” a CVS spokeswoman says.
If you’re insured, bring your insurance card to the vaccination site. If you’re not, you still will get the shot at no cost to you.
What if my vaccination card is full?
Do not worry. You should be given a second one, where the new booster will be noted.
What if I have COVID now?
Once you’re done isolating after being infected, there’s no reason to wait to get the booster, doctors say.
Will I need to this every year?
“No one knows for sure yet,” Segreti says. “But that seems pretty likely.”
Brett Chase’s reporting on the environment and public health is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.