Everyone who is six months and older should receive the newest version of the COVID vaccine, recommends the Center for Disease Control Prevention. Appointments are now available at pharmacies throughout the city.
How do I get the updated, free COVID-19 vaccine?
Readers can find locations offering the vaccine through the NYC Vaccine Finder, or call NYC Health’s vaccine hotline, 212-COVID19 (212-268-4319). You can also call the NYC Health + Hospitals hotline, 1-877-VAX-4NYC (1-877-829-4692). Your local independent pharmacy may not appear on the NYC Vaccine Finder, but it may have doses available.
The vaccine is free for everyone in the US, regardless of insurance or immigration status. It is fully covered by private health insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid. For adults who are uninsured or under-insured, it is free through the federal Bridge Access program, in which all CVS and Walgreens pharmacies are participating. (Last week, some New Yorkers reported being charged for the vaccine due to insurance billing errors. Make sure you are not charged when you receive the vaccine.)
The updated shot will have the same potential side effects as previous vaccines, including feeling tired, achy, and sore. Symptoms should go away within a few days.
Why would I get another COVID vaccine?
COVID-19, like flu viruses, is constantly mutating. Prior vaccines will not be as effective against new variants. Immunity from previous vaccines and infections will also wane over time. While an updated vaccine cannot completely prevent you from catching COVID, it can reduce your chances of severe illness, long COVID, hospitalization, and death.
The updated vaccine, manufactured by Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax, is a monovalent mRNA formulation based upon the XBB1.5 COVID variant. While XBB1.5 is no longer dominant, early research suggests that the updated vaccine will still be effective against proliferating variants like EG.5 and BA.2.86, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
I just got COVID recently. How long should I wait before getting the new shot?
According to the CDC, you can consider waiting three months since your last positive test.
How can I prepare for possible fall and winter spikes?
Health experts call the upcoming months “respiratory illness season” — when the flu, RSV, and now COVID-19 circulate at higher rates in colder months. Many pharmacies are offering the annual flu shot in conjunction with the updated COVID vaccine. Every household can order four free at-home rapid COVID-19 tests from the U.S. government on COVIDTests.gov. A high-quality mask, such as an N95 or KN95 mask, is also effective in protecting from respiratory viruses.