‘Tis the season for a new COVID vaccine.
If it’s been more than two months since you got any previous COVID shot and if you’re at least five years old, it’s time to make an appointment for the newest jab.
That brand-new shot is a monovalent vaccine approved by the Federal Drug Administration in early September.
But don’t call it a booster.
The new shot is not building off or improving the immunity you already have from earlier COVID vaccinations; it’s making a new immune response to current variant threats. Immunology professor Andy Pekosz at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health says “the change in wording reflects that we’ve begun treating COVID like we treat influenza, with annual vaccination.”
Previous boosters, including the bivalent boosters from last fall and winter, are no longer available in the U.S. as of Sept. 11, 2023, the CDC said.
In Jamaica, Queens, Victoria Robinson, a community health worker at the senior care facility India Home, said she’s noticed “little interest” in the new vaccine from the New Yorkers she talks to every day. If she talks to five people, maybe two of them will show some willingness to take a new shot, or even know about it.
“People believe COVID-19 is done with us,” she said, and a lot of people she’s spoken with “do not trust the science” behind the vaccine.
“Because the city is a melting pot, there are language and cultural hurdles that have allowed disinformation to take root and raise disinterest among community members,” she said.
To Bruce Y. Lee, professor of health policy at CUNY’s School of Public Health, there are three reasons to get the new vaccine. First, because it targets a subvariant of the virus that is “much closer to the currently circulating subvariants” than any previous shot.
Secondly, protection from vaccines wanes over time, so if you got your last COVID-19 vaccination more than four months ago, the protection offered by the vaccine “is getting weaker and weaker with time.”
Lastly, getting a shot is your best protection from the winter surges that have come since the virus appeared, he said, “around the time the weather gets considerably colder and drier and activities move more indoors.”
“It’s important to remember that while the risk of death and hospitalization from COVID-19 may have gone down, there are still people suffering from more severe outcomes from COVID-19 and many are still developing long COVID,” he said.
Here’s how to get your new shot in New York City now.
Where can I get the new COVID vaccine?
The primary administrators of the new vaccine are Walgreens and CVS pharmacies, which have partnered with the federal government to deliver shots to those who need them.
The Centers for Disease Control says the best way to find a vaccine location near you is to search vaccines.gov, text your ZIP code to 438829 or call (800) 232-0233.
The vaccine program also includes Duane Reade locations, which are owned by Walgreens, a representative of the company said.
Make an appointment and go at your scheduled time to get the shot at whatever local pharmacy has doses available. If there are no appointments available, vaccines.gov recommends contacting your own health provider or your local health department. In New York, that’s the city Department of Health.
Robinson, the community health worker, said New Yorkers who don’t speak English can get help through a local community center, health services group or senior center.
“Community-based organizations like India Home are also excellent resources since we can guide community members through the process … and maybe assist with any language difficulties,” she said.
Both Moderna and Pfizer manufacture the new vaccine, and the CDC says you can choose whichever company you’d like, regardless of which vaccine maker you received your shot from previously.
Will the new shot cost anything?
The new vaccine should cost you nothing.
If you are insured or insured through Medicare, the shot’s cost is covered and you will pay nothing.
If you are not insured, or are underinsured, the temporary Bridge Access Program — using $1.1 billion in already-allocated COVID-19 emergency funds — will cover the cost of the new vaccine. The program is slated to run through December 2024, according to this guide on vaccine costs from the health policy group KFF.
Still, Robinson says if you are worried about receiving a copay or bill, she suggests contacting your insurer to confirm it will be free
“Undocumented individuals should seek assistance from any of New York City’s Health and Hospitals, as they cover the COVID-19 immunizations,” she added. To contact the Health + Hospitals system for vaccines, click here.
Can I get the flu vaccine at the same time?
Yes. There is no waiting period between flu shot and the new COVID shot, according to the CDC, and you can get both shots at the same time if you’d like.
Will the new vaccine make me feel ill? Should I plan to take a sick day?
Some people may have side effects from the vaccine which include chills, fever, fatigue, headache, muscle pain or nausea, according to the CDC.
New York law valid through the end of this year mandates that all employers must allow up to four hours of paid leave to get a COVID vaccine. Additionally, employers are supposed to allow unpaid sick time for illness from COVID, and many are required to provide at least five days of paid leave depending on the size of the company. For more information about sick time and COVID in New York, read more from the state Department of Labor.