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The FDA has authorized Covid booster shots that target the omicron BA.5 subvariant as the U.S. prepares for another surge of infections this fall and winter. It's the first time the FDA has authorized an updated vaccine formula since the original shots rolled out in December 2020.
They may already be available at a vaccine site near you.
The Omicron BA.5 Subvariant
The new shots from Pfizer and Moderna are bivalent, meaning that they target both the original Covid strain and omicron’s BA.5 subvariant. Last week, the FDA and the CDC approved Pfizer’s for ages 12 and older, and Moderna for 18 and older.
To be eligible, you’ll need to have completed your primary vaccination series — and be at least two months out from your last dose of any Covid vaccine, according to the CDC. If you’ve recently had Covid, you should consider waiting three months after testing negative before getting your updated booster.
The new shots are free of charge for now. Here’s where you can get them if you’re eligible:
- Walgreens began offering both Pfizer and Moderna’s new boosters on Friday. The shots haven’t reached all of the chain’s locations yet, but new appointments are being added daily. You can view and schedule appointments on the Walgreens website, on the pharmacy’s app or by calling 1-800-WALGREENS.
- CVS also began offering both updated boosters on Friday. Its online system allows you to schedule multiple patients at once, which could make it easier for your family to get vaccinated together. You can schedule those appointments on the CVS website or on the pharmacy’s app.
- Multiple states — including New York & New Jersey have websites to help you find other clinics with new boosters in stock. Check your state’s health department website to see if it’s offering similar resources.
- Vaccines.gov currently says to “check back soon” for sites offering updated boosters. You can still call any individual location listed on the website to see if it has the new boosters in stock.
Walgreens’ online scheduling tool makes it clear that a location is offering the “updated booster.” Other pharmacies and clinics, including CVS, aren't as clear, BUT any booster you receive now will be the new one, according to recent FDA guidance.
That’s because when the FDA authorized the new boosters last week, it also changed its authorization for the original “monovalent” vaccines that have been used since December 2020. Those original shots can’t be used as booster doses for people 12 and over anymore, though they’re still the only primary vaccine options for unvaccinated people.
More than 200 million people are eligible for the new shots, a CDC official said last week. So far, the country has secured 171 million doses of the new boosters, including 105 million from Pfizer and 66 million from Moderna — an indicator that the country’s supply of free doses will likely meet demand from the general public.
Appointment availability will likely ramp up in the coming days and weeks. The doses are still being shipped out to vaccine sites across the country. So keep checking if they're not in yet.