PHOENIX — In just a few days, millions of Americans will be able to get their second COVID-19 booster shot. It will also be available for kids as young as 12.
As the virus mutates, the vaccines to fight the virus are also changing. The new booster shot will target new variants including Omicron’s subvariant BA.5, which is still the dominant subvariant, according to the Arizona Department of Health Service’s most recent variant report.
ABC15 Health Insider Dr. Janice Johnston said the new booster is called a “bivalent booster.”
“Meaning that it offers protection to both the original form of COVID and the latest form of COVID,” she said.
Dr. Johnston said it’s similar to flu shots where they get tweaked every year. If another variant comes, health experts can easily change the vaccine.
However, not everyone is keen on getting vaccinated again.
Jim Cave said he received his COVID-19 shots because he had to for work. However, he wouldn’t get them if it wasn’t required.
“I think they're coming because people want to keep them coming. I don't believe in them, but do what you got to do,” Cave said.
Melanie Crouch, on the other hand, is willing to get the booster shot once it’s available.
“I already got the first one. I've gotten all my vaccines to date. I just want to keep everyone healthy. I have family members that are elderly, I don't want them to get them sick. I travel a lot so the last thing I want to do is get anyone else sick,” she said.
Dr. Johnston and other health experts urge people to get vaccinated, especially as fall and winter months come along. Johnston expects COVID and flu cases to rise.
“That's what we would expect that there would be another spike in numbers that will be coming, definitely,” Johnston said. “I think that a lot of people have either had their original series or their last boosters quite some time ago and so we are definitely recommending that people get the new booster.”
If people want to get their COVID booster and flu shot at the same time, Johnston said it is safe to do so. If people get the booster shot, it’s recommended to do it at least two months after their last booster dose or other COVID vaccines.
The booster shot may have similar side effects to the other COVID vaccines. Those who get the shot may get general aches and pains and possibly a low-grade fever.
“Just signifying that your immune system is kicking into gear,” she said.
Those 50 and older have been eligible to get the second booster shot since March. However, the Arizona Department of Health Services says one-third of vaccinated people over 65 have not received one or two of their booster doses.
Johnston said boosters do help prevent serious illness.
“The boosters we do feel make a big impact on, definitely, the mortality and certainly the morbidity of the disease that we're seeing right now,” she said.
Johnston is the chief medical officer for Redirect Health. She said they should be receiving doses of the booster shot in the next week. Walgreens lists on its website it will start administering the new boosters starting Wednesday.