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New coronavirus boosters are just around the corner following authorization Wednesday by federal regulators. The updated shots are designed to provide a stronger shield against the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants still causing tens of thousands of infections and hundreds of deaths every day in the United States.
The boosters will be part of a campaign by the federal government, to be kicked off within days, to persuade Americans to bolster their immune defenses before a potential surge in covid-19 cases as cooler weather arrives in the fall.
But the updated boosters have generated some controversy and confusion. Here’s what you need to know.
When will the shots be available?
The boosters, after receiving emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, now have to get the blessing of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its advisers. That review is scheduled for Thursday. If all goes as expected, some shots could be available this weekend, with more available right after Labor Day.
Where can I get one and how much will it cost?
The new boosters, which are intended as single shots, will be available at the same places where the previous boosters and vaccines have been available – at doctors offices, hospitals, pharmacies and community health clinics.
Like the other coronavirus shots, the updated boosters have been purchased by the federal government and will be free to consumers.
Who are the boosters for?
The CDC is expected to recommend the shots for the same ages authorized by the FDA: 12 and older for the new booster from Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, and 18 and up for the Moderna booster. Officials are expected to consider use of the updated booster in younger children later. Anyone who has received the two-shot primary series of the mRNA vaccines and the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be eligible, regardless of whether they received any – or all – of the recommended booster shots.
The existing vaccine will continue to be used, but only for the initial two-shot series of the mRNA, not as a booster.
If I just got a booster of the original vaccine, should I get the new one right away?
No. The FDA said people who recently received their initial vaccine or a booster should wait two months before getting the updated booster. Getting the new booster too soon could limit its effectiveness.
What are the side effects of the boosters?
Side effects are not expected to differ from those associated with the current vaccine, which include redness and swelling at the vaccine site, as well as occasional fatigue, headache and muscle soreness, according to the CDC. More serious reactions are rare.
The Washington Post’s Lena H. Sun contributed to this report.