Hoosiers 12 and older can now receive an updated COVID-19 booster shot that will better protect against the most recent variants of the disease.
Last week, a federal advisory panel voted to recommend updated boosters that will target specific strains of the virus. This recommendation was quickly endorsed by CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
The updated Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna boosters, called “bivalent” vaccines, target both the original viruses and the most recent omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5, which are the dominant variants across the world. In the U.S., 88% of COVID-19 infections in the U.S. are due to BA.5, and BA.4 accounts for many of the rest, USA TODAY reported.
Pfizer’s booster is available to those ages 12 and up, while Moderna’s will be available for those 18 and older.
While data on how effective the updated boosters are is not yet complete, experts predict the booster targeted towards specific strains will offer increased protection against severe illness, prevent milder infections for some amount of time and protect against long COVID.
Experts are predicting that COVID-19 cases will rise again this fall and winter, as more people spend time indoors and children go back to school. Last fall, the delta variant dominated, though it was replaced in later winter months by omicron, which caused the highest caseload and the most deaths through the COVID-19 pandemic, according to USA TODAY.
The new shots are authorized and recommended by the CDC to be administered at least two months after the last dose, according to the Indiana Department of Health.
As of Tuesday, over 10 million doses of the vaccine had been administered statewide, according to the Indiana COVID-19 vaccination dashboard. Of those, nearly 2 million were booster doses, and nearly 400,000 were second booster doses. According to the dashboard, 55% of Hoosiers are fully vaccinated, meaning they received both original doses of a two-dose vaccine or one dose of the one-shot vaccine.
How do I know I’m getting the updated booster?
According to the Indiana Department of Health, bivalent vaccines are still being rolled out across the state, and the registration system is being updated. Before making an appointment to receive the booster that’s been modified for the new variant, you should check with your doctor or vaccination site that they will be offering the updated shot.
You can check to see which sites near you have the updated booster by visiting vaccines.gov. Go to “Find COVID-19 vaccines and boosters,” type in your zip code and select the options for the Pfizer and Moderna “newly authorized bivalent” vaccines.
When making an appointment, CVS Health’s scheduling process said that those signing up to get a COVID-19 booster ages 12 and up will receive the bivalent booster, though appointment slots may be limited.
“If you are eligible, there is no bad time to get your COVID-19 booster and I strongly encourage you to receive it,” Walensky said in a Sept. 1 news release.
How to make an appointment to receive an updated COVID-19 booster
COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are free, regardless of insurance status. You can make an appointment online at your local CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens or other pharmacy. CVS MinuteClinic does not carry the bivalent booster, according to the pharmacy’s website, though select CVS pharmacies will have doses of the updated booster.
IDOH is currently updating the registration system for the targeted booster shots, but you can still register for a first booster dose or initial series by visiting vaccine.coronavirus.in.gov/en-US.
If you have difficulty registering for a vaccine, dial 211 for assistance. For Spanish, press 3 upon dialing.
How can I get a flu shot in Indiana?
Experts are concerned about the combination of COVID-19 infection with flu season. Annual flu vaccination has been recommended by the CDC for everyone six months or older, which few exceptions, since 2010.
You can find a flu shot by going to vaccines.gov/find-vaccines, selecting “Find Flu Vaccines” and typing in your zip code. The flu shot is available at nearly all pharmacies, including CVS, Walgreens, Costco and Kroger, as well as through your primary care doctor. Flu shots are free of cost with most insurance.
You can get a COVID-19 booster shot at the same time as an annual flu shot.
USA TODAY contributed to this report.
Contact IndyStar reporter Claire Rafford at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @clairerafford.