The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new round of COVID-19 booster shots from pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Pfizer last week. The vaccines, obtainable to everyone ages six months and older, are quickly becoming available across the United States in major retail pharmacies, such as CVS and Walgreens, as well as hospitals and clinics.
The new wave of shots comes with a caveat – the cost won’t be covered by the federal government. This means that the vaccines could cost over $120 out of pocket. Although most major insurance companies cover the boosters, options still exist for the tens of millions of Americans without health insurance.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Bridge Access Program allows Americans without coverage to obtain no-cost vaccines. Adults 18 years and older can find providers participating in the program by searching on vaccines.gov. Additionally, state-run health insurance programs such as Medicare and Medicaid are expected to cover the shot.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that everyone six months and older who hasn’t received a COVID vaccine in the past two months get a booster.
Strong data exists from previous vaccines that a COVID shot will reduce risk of hospitalization and severe disease.
“This recommendation was based on extensive data and clinical trials,” Mandy Cohen, CDC director, said in a statement. “As a doctor, a mom, a wife, a daughter and head of the CDC, I would not recommend anything to others that I wouldn’t recommend to my own family.”
This broad guideline differs from the agency’s recommendations for previous vaccines which prioritized high-risk and older individuals first. However, individuals recently infected with COVID may consider waiting at least three months before receiving a booster shot.
These updated boosters come at a time when hospitalizations are on the rise in the U.S., according to data from the CDC. The shots were created with the intention of attacking the XBB.1.5 subvariant, the prevailing strain at the time. Although XBB.1.5 is no longer a commanding strain in the U.S., lab studies have indicated that the latest boosters should prove to be effective against the current strains. Statements from Moderna and Pfizer also make this claim.
As with previous vaccines, those who take the booster should see a robust immune response within about two weeks of receiving the shot. This would likely help reduce risk of infection for a few months and ensure for a longer period that a case would be less severe if an infection did occur.
Data on how long protection lasts is limited as this can be influenced by many variables. However, strong data exists from previous vaccines that a COVID shot will reduce risk of hospitalization and severe disease.
Health officials hope the updated boosters can increase Americans’ immunity before the winter season.
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