booster shot

NY State Releases 2nd COVID Booster Dose Guidance: Here's What to Know

Second booster doses of the COVID vaccine are now available in NYC to people aged 50 and up who had their last shot at least four months ago

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The latest expansion comes as omicron subvariant BA.2 fuels fresh worries over the COVID pandemic; cases are rising but hospitalizations and deaths are still down and experts don't expect a huge surge

What to Know

  • NYS released its second COVID booster dose guidance on Saturday; the recommendations mirror those set by the federal government
  • At this point, NYC health officials urge that people who are eligible for a booster at least get one if they haven't done so yet; like the CDC, they're not fully recommending 4th doses ASAP for all now eligible
  • The expansion comes as omicron subvariant BA.2 fuels fresh worries over the COVID pandemic; cases are rising but hospitalizations and deaths are still down and experts don't expect a huge surge

New York state outlined its second COVID booster eligibility guidance on Saturday, days after the five boroughs started offering the fourth vaccine doses following the federal government's authorization of those shots earlier in the week.

The eligibility expansion mirrors that outlined by the FDA and CDC. New Yorkers age 50 or older who got their first booster at least four months ago, adult Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients last boosted at least four months ago and all age 12 and up who are moderately to severely immunocompromised are included.

Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients can get a second booster of any mRNA COVID vaccine, which means Pfizer or Moderna. Those younger than 17 still must to stick with the Pfizer vaccine, though.

Second boosters are free and widely available across New York, including at all state-run mass vaccine sites (schedule an appointment here or find a convenient location near you here). State health officials continue to strongly encourage at least one booster dose for eligible adolescents and adults.

"Getting vaccinated and staying up-to-date with all recommended doses is the most effective way to prevent severe illness and hospitalization, and move safely forward through this pandemic," Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement.

The FDA gave the green light for Americans 50 and older, as well as those who are immuno-compromised, to get a second booster shot. It only applies to Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and must be at least four months since those eligible got their first booster. NBC New York's Ida Siegal reports.

State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett echoed the Democrat's sentiments, saying, "For each of us, vaccination remains our personal best line of defense against COVID. As we have seen with the recent increase of the omicron subvariant BA.2, COVID is still with us. These safe and effective vaccines remain free, including the second booster."

According to CDC data from the recent omicron surge, those who were boosted were 21 times less likely to die from COVID-19 compared to those who were unvaccinated, and seven times less likely to be hospitalized, she pointed out.

Retail pharmacies are on board with the second booster rollout as well and major chains, including Walgreens, CVS and Rite-Aid are already accepting appointments online or by walk-ins. Learn more about New York City's rollout here.

Omicron subvariant BA.2 is now the dominant COVID strain circulating in New York and in the country and is contributing to an uptick in cases. Hospitalizations and deaths, though, the more critical benchmarks, have remained on the decline.

Experts say that while BA.2 may be more contagious than its predecessor, there's no evidence at this point that it is linked to more severe disease or is more vaccine-resistant. Given those factors and high vaccination rates in New York, officials don't expect the subvariant to trigger another major viral resurgence locally or in the U.S.

How different is the BA.2 subvariant of the coronavirus? Not much, says NBC News medical contributor Dr. John Torres. The subvariant has not been labeled as a variant of concern, and it's not that different from Omicron, Torres says. Here's a metaphor: if a fully new variant is like the virus putting on a full new outfit, a subvariant is just putting on new shoes.
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