The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially recommended two updated COVID-19 booster shots last week — and pharmacies and health care providers across the state have already begun offering them.
Here’s what you need to know about the new vaccines, including who is eligible to receive them and how you can schedule an appointment.
How are the updated boosters different from the original boosters?
The CDC has signed off on two updated boosters: a Moderna one and a Pfizer-BioNTech one. Both vaccines are “bivalent,” according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, meaning they provide protection against the original, early-pandemic strain of COVID-19 and the newer omicron variants of the virus.
The boosters specifically target the BA. 4 and BA. 5 omicron variants, the CDC says. As of Saturday, the BA.5 variant of omicron accounted for 88.6% of COVID-19 cases in the United States, CDC data shows. The BA. 4.6, BA. 4 and BA.2.12.1 variants, meanwhile, accounted for 8.4%, 2.8% and 0.1% of the remaining cases, respectively.
Both the BA.4 and BA.5 variants are expected to continue circulating into the winter months, the FDA says.
The updated boosters “can help restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination and were designed to provide broader protection against newer variants,” the CDC’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said in a statement.
Who is eligible to receive an updated booster?
People 18 and older who got their primary COVID-19 vaccine shots or their most recent booster shots at least two months ago are eligible to receive a single dose of the new Moderna booster, according to the FDA.
Adults and children ages 12 and up who received their primary vaccine shots or their most recent booster shots at least two months ago, meanwhile, are eligible for a single dose of the updated Pfizer-BioNTech booster, the FDA says.
The CDC is on track to expand its recommendations to younger children “in the coming weeks,” it said in a press release.
At a news conference on Wednesday, the commissioner of the New York State Department of Health, Dr. Mary Bassett, acknowledged that some New Yorkers “may feel confused about the number of boosters and shots they’re supposed to get.”
“But we can keep it simple by saying that if you’re 12 and over, and you’ve gotten your full primary course of vaccines — that’s the first and second shot — you should get a booster,” Bassett said. “It doesn’t matter how many boosters you’ve had before; if [it’s] been two months since your last shot, you should look into getting another booster.”
Where can I schedule an updated booster vaccine appointment?
Updated booster shots are now “widely available” at pharmacies and primary care offices across the state, Gov. Kathy Hochul said at Wednesday’s news conference.
New Yorkers can schedule booster appointments via the state’s COVID-19 vaccine portal or through their primary health care providers, Hochul, who received her own updated booster on camera Wednesday morning, said in a press release.
They can also contact their local county health departments, text their ZIP codes to 438829 or call 1-800-232-0233 to find sites offering updated boosters, according to the release.
CVS, for its part, is offering booster appointments to eligible New Yorkers via its app and website.
And anyone looking to schedule an appointment at a Walgreens pharmacy can call 1-800-WALGREENS, sign up for an appointment on the Walgreens app or book one via the chain’s vaccine portal, Walgreens said in a press release.
A spokesperson for the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on Wednesday said the agency’s COVID-19 vaccine portal will start listing omicron booster appointments once more of the updated shots arrive in the five boroughs.
What is the current status of COVID-19 in the five boroughs?
As of Wednesday, the city was reporting an 8.7% seven-day COVID-19 infection rate, with daily average cases, hospitalizations and deaths all on the decline.
The five boroughs’ seven-day average case count stood at 1,921 as of Sunday, down from this summer’s peak of 4,849 on July 11.
Hochul on Wednesday encouraged eligible New Yorkers to get their updated booster shots “immediately,” saying they would give the state “a new tool to fight the virus.”
“And thank God we’ve had vaccines, and vaccinations, and booster shots to prevent death and serious illness. And that is what the narrative over these many months has demonstrated,” she said. “That people who are boosted, you still may contract COVID, yes, but you’ll have a much less severe case, you’re less likely to end up in hospital, and certainly, much less chance of death.”