The omicron-specific COVID-19 reminder arrived in Washington almost two months ago, but the prices for the blow remain low and questions about eligibility, access and security continue to arise.
The updated booster is known as bivalent because it protects against severe disease from both the original viral strain, as well as omicron and its contagious subvariants. Health experts want as many Washingtonians as possible to receive it, hoping to protect communities from possible fall or winter surges.
Pfizer said this week that its booster tailored to the latest omicron variants appears to offer better protection than the original against mainstream versions of the virus, according to Bloomberg.
This week, Dr. Seth Cohen, medical director of infection control at UW Medical Center, answered frequently asked questions about recalls and explained why new vaccines could be so important at this time of year.
“It does appear that demand is slightly lower for the booster now than it was last year, and it’s not clear exactly why,” Cohen said. “COVID fatigue is real and community transmission levels are lower so people perceive the risk to be lower. But that might change when the holidays come.
Here’s what you need to know about bivalent recall.
Who is eligible to receive the shot?
Anyone age 5 and older who has completed the first round of COVID vaccines (the first two doses of Moderna, Pfizer, or Novavax, or one dose of Johnson & Johnson) is eligible for the updated booster. It’s safe to mix and match vaccine brands, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.
Updated boosters for ages 12 and up have been available since Labor Day weekend.
United States Wednesday updated boosters allowed for younger children: Pfizer for ages 5-11 and a Moderna version for ages 6 and up.
Where can you get photos – and are appointments available?
Many public health officials recommend calling your doctor’s office or health care provider first to see if they have any vaccination appointments available. For those without a primary care provider, several medical clinics in Seattle offer call-back appointments regardless of membership, including:
- Carolyn Downs Family Medical Center
- Cynthia A. Green Family Center (Healthpoint)
- Holly Park Medical Clinic (International Community Health Services)
- International District Medical Clinic
- Northgate South Medical Center (Kaiser Permanente)
- Northshore Medical Center (Kaiser Permanente)
- Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic, both in Othello and Central District
- Seattle for kids
- Seattle Medical Clinic (SeaMar)
Healthcare facilities and pharmacies such as Bartell Drugs, Walgreen’s and CVS are also administering the reminder, though finding an appointment can be tricky.
Bartell Regional Pharmacy Chief Steve Simon said this week that the pharmacy chain is seeing a “huge increase in demand for flu and updated COVID-19 booster shots.”
To YOUR medication, people are asked to call a vaccine appointment hotline to get on a waiting list. While the list was initially quite long, Cohen said teams had caught up with demand over the past few weeks and were able to offer people appointments within days of the call.
Public Health – Seattle and King County are also home to several community vaccination events in Auburn, Renton, Burien, Federal Way, Shoreline and a handful of Seattle neighborhoods over the next two weeks.
When should you get the vaccine for it to be effective by Thanksgiving?
The booster is usually most effective at least two weeks after administration, Cohen said, so those who want to be fully protected by Thanksgiving should try to get an appointment no later than Nov. 10.
Cohen noted, however, that shooting for a specific event can be risky.
“It can sometimes be like trying to time the stock market,” Cohen said. “It may not be clear when the risk is really going to affect you.”
If you recently contracted COVID, how long should you wait to get the updated reminder?
The CDC said people who recently had COVID could consider waiting 90 days from when they stop testing positive for the virus, but Cohen said it’s probably best to get vaccinated. as soon as possible because omicron frequently causes reinfection.
“If we think there might be a surge in the fall or winter, it may be interesting for people to be stimulated before the next surge hits,” he said. “…We should try not to waste opportunities to get vaccinated when possible.”
How long after the original reminder should you wait to get the update? If you haven’t received the initial booster, how long after the first set should you wait?
You can receive your updated reminder if it has been at least two months since your last dose, whether it was a primary dose or a booster dose.
Health experts have said that getting the flu shot at the same time as the COVID booster is safe, but how likely am I to develop other, or worse, side effects?
Not at all likely, Cohen said. At UW Medicine clinics, providers routinely vaccinate patients against COVID and the flu and have seen no increase in additional side effects, he said.