TAMPA, Fla. — Millions of the new COVID-19 vaccines are being shipped across the country.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed off on the updated boosters last week.
Now health officials are working on getting shots into arms as quickly as possible.
So far, the updated boosters are available at all Walgreens and CVS locations.
You have to make an appointment online first because there are limited quantities available for now.
“I imagine it’ll take a little while before we get it on a really big scale,” said Dr. Jill Roberts, Associate Professor for the USF College of Public Health.
Vaccine rollout was slowed because of the Labor Day weekend, but the Biden Administration said availability would ramp up over the next several days, with widespread availability expected over the news few weeks.
“We’ve seen this over and over again. Some states will be very proactive in getting vaccination sites set up immediately, whereas others will be a little more lackadaisical,” said Roberts.
Pfizer’s updated booster shot has been authorized for people 12 and older.
Moderna’s new vaccine is for people 18 and older.
You can only get the updated shot if you have completed the primary series.
These boosters offer protection against both the original COVID-19 Wuhan strain and omicron’s BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants.
Health officials said scientists had to make a new vaccine because the original shots were no longer offering enough protection from all the new variants.
“Unfortunately, over time, your existing shot is going to stop working. So the protection you’re getting right now against hospitalization and severe disease is going to go away,” said Roberts.
As for when you should get your next shot if you’re eligible, Dr. Roberts said what’s important is the timing.
“What you want to be is at least three months out from your last booster or your last COVID infection,” said Roberts. “If you’re three months out, you’re good.”
The CDC also has an online tool to help you find out when to get a booster.
Experts stress getting this new vaccine is going to be crucial as we head into the fall and winter months because there’s a possibility for another COVID-19 surge.
“It’s still there. It’s still a threat. We’re still seeing deaths. We’re still seeing hospitalizations, so there’s really nothing to lose by getting the shot,” said Roberts.
In terms of any side effects from this new vaccine, doctors said you might notice less of them because the dose is lower.
According to health officials, you could experience mild symptoms like injection site pain, headache, muscle aches, and fatigue.
“We just want to boost the immune response, and if there’s already an existing response which is why you can only take this if you’ve already had the other shots is because that dosage is actually lower,” said Roberts.
Walgreens and CVS will open up more appointment slots as they get more shots.
“Your own physician’s office has hopefully ordered, and they’ll let you know when it’s available,” said Roberts.
As the pandemic stretches on, public health experts continue to keep an eye on where things stand now. Focused primarily on Florida, Dr. Jason Salemi, an Associate Professor of Epidemiology at USF’s College of Public Health, said a lot of the news comparatively is good news.
“The number of reported daily cases continues to fall from over 10,000 per day at the beginning of August to now around 4,600 per day over the past seven days,” said Dr. Salemi. “If we look at hospitalizations, we’re seeing a very similar story: the number of patients currently sitting in the intensive care units with COVID-19 is down 45 percent compared to just four weeks ago, the number of adults just sitting in the hospital with COVID-19 is down 41 percent, and even in children, we’re seeing a decrease of about seven percent compared to where we were just four weeks ago.”