A new lineup of COVID-19 vaccines are now becoming available in the US. The updated shots will arrive at select pharmacies as retailers continue to receive inventory. CVS says it expects all of its pharmacies to have the new vaccines in stock by early next week, and some stores appear to already have the latest shot. Appointments at Walgreens will start opening up scheduling today, with appointments beginning for the public starting Monday.
The CDC is urging most Americans to get an updated COVID-19 vaccine, however, it does not specify if at-risk populations or immunocompromised people should get priority access. The CDC does mention that vaccination will reduce chances of “suffering the effects of Long COVID.” This CDC recommendation comes in light of an eight percent uptick in COVID-related hospitalizations this week.
Availability follows the FDA’s decision to authorize Pfizer-BioNTech’s Comirnaty and Moderna’s Spikevax shots for emergency use earlier this week. Novovax’s booster was recommended for use by the CDC, but is still awaiting emergency use authorization by the FDA. The jabs being made available are essentially updated versions of existing Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines and that have been formulated to protect against the recent omicron subvariant called the Omicron variant XBB.1.5, the current dominant strain circulating in the US.
The CDC has also launched a Bridge Access Program, which earmarks $1 billion to ensure continued free coverage for COVID-19 vaccines to uninsured Americans.
The FDA says the timing and number of doses to get will depend on previous COVID-19 vaccines received. The FDA anticipates that COVID-19 vaccines may need to be updated annually and will likely be revised like seasonal influenza vaccines. Side effects from the vaccine may also vary from individual to individual, however the CDC notes that the most common side effects from COVID-19 vaccination include pain at the injection site, fatigue, muscle aches and headaches.
Later this week, the CDC says vaccines.gov will be updated with COVID-19 availability information as the vaccine is distributed. This government site can show which boosters are being offered at which local pharmacies using an interactive map.