Vermonters can get a new COVID-19 booster shot as soon as Wednesday after a federal advisory panel signed off Thursday on the new vaccine that will offer more protection against recent virus variants.
The state is receiving a first shipment of just over 17,000 doses, said state epidemiologist Patsy Kelso on Friday. Walk-in clinics across the state will begin offering them Sept. 7, including at the South Burlington clinic at University Mall. Kelso recommends Vermonters also utilize their primary care doctors and pharmacies, who will receive doses by mid-September.
The Food and Drug Administration authorized the use of the vaccine this past week, and and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended its use, necessary steps before the shots could be distributed across the country.
The two major companies making vaccines, Pfizer and Modern, have separate age limits for the vaccine, which has been named the “bivalent booster.” Kids and adults 12 and up can get the Pfizer shot and adults 18 and over can get the Moderna shot. The bivalent booster was created with the same mRNA technology as the original vaccines and boosters and has elements of the original virus as well as elements of the most recent Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5.
Kelso said the booster, like all vaccines, will not necessarily protect people from infection but it will protect people from serious illness and hospitalization. She said getting the booster will be important for all who are eligible, especially because respiratory illness season is just around the corner. It is also safe for people to get their flu and COVID booster shots at the same time, Kelso said.
Some adults over 50 may have gotten their second booster in the past two months. Kelso said people should wait two months from their last booster or from their last COVID-19 infection before receiving the bivalent booster.
Evidence presented at the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices meeting Thursday showed that adults 50 and older who received a second booster were three times less likely to die from COVID-19 than adults 50+ who received only one booster suggesting that a bivalent booster would similarly boost chances of living. This hypothesis is not yet back up by data.
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Recommendations for children under 12 have not yet been released by the CDC but Kelso expects the them to issue guidance in the near future. Over half of Vermonters aged 5-11 have received their primary series of COVID-19 vaccine doses and 16% of them have also been boosted. About 18% of children younger than 5 in Vermont have gotten their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 5% are fully vaccinated. Kelso said the percentage of children under 5 who are vaccinated in Vermont is higher than surrounding states.
Visit the Vermont Department of Health’s COVID-19 vaccine webpage to find a walk-in clinic near you: https://www.healthvermont.gov/covid-19/vaccine#walkinclinic