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Thinking about getting the new COVID-19 booster? Any time is a good time, health officials say

a photo of CVS in Kent
The new COVID-19 booster is available at pharmacies in Northeast Ohio, including CVS.

Public health experts say that getting the new COVID-19 booster that protects against the new Omicron variants is a step towards successfully living with the virus — something we are going to be doing for the long term.

“It’s endemic. It’s got staying power like no other,” said Summit County Public Health (SCPH) Commissioner Donna Skoda. “Now it’s becoming more infectious and less sever. I think we will prepare every year in the fall, particularly.”

In late August, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave emergency authorization to a new COVID-19 booster shot designed to protect against the original strain of the virus and the new BA.4 and BA.5 variants that are currently dominant in Ohio. The new booster is currently available through health departments, hospital systems and pharmacies.

“It should provide much better protection … especially for people who haven’t gotten their booster and people who haven’t been infected with COVID recently," said Dr. Amy Edwards, head of University Hospitals’ Pediatric COVID Recovery Clinic. “This shot is very important. It could save a lot of lives.”

Demand for the booster has been “average,” Skoda said.

“Some folks think it’s a little early to take it,” she said. “They want to wait a little bit and take it closer to October. We tell people any time you get a vaccine is a good time.”

For those who want to wait before getting their shot, Edwards said that the previous booster dose should offer you some protection for a couple of months.

“We’re saying the same with an infection,” she said. “You can wait eight to 12 weeks.”

But you also don’t have to wait if you want to get the new booster, she added.

“If you’re particularly compromised, and you really do want this more effective booster right away you don’t have to wait,” Edwards said.

There is no cost for the vaccine, but some pharmacies or physicians’ offices may charge and administration fee to your insurance, Skoda explained.

“If you have no insurance that should not deter you from getting the vaccine because there are programs to cover that administration cost,” Skoda said. “We just want individuals just get the shot, but, please, don’t let any kind of cost deter you.”

The Pfizer booster is approved for those ages 12 and older; Moderna for those 18 and up, according to the FDA.

The new boosters are only for people who received the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, Skoda said. There is no updated booster available for people who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, also known as Novavax.

Stephanie is the deputy editor of news at Ideastream Public Media.