What to Know
- NYC-run COVID sites are offering second COVID booster doses Thursday, based on the latest federal guidance; shots are open to people aged 50 and up or with weakened immune systems
- 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 authorization 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 City-run COVID sites are officially offering second booster shots for eligible people starting Thursday, a day after initially turning some away as health officials ironed out the guidelines. Retail pharmacies are also on board.
The CDC endorsed the FDA's authorization of the fourth shot for Pfizer and Moderna recipients age 50 and older who are at least four months out from their most recent vaccine dose. The federal agency didn't quite all-out recommend the second booster in its endorsement but suggested it as an option.
The response was similar in New York City, where health officials late Wednesday announced their plans to distribute the shots while saying "everyone should get at least one booster" if they haven't done so yet. Naturally, there are questions.
New York City is following the CDC booster guidelines around eligibility, which apply to anyone 50 and older who had their last dose at least four months ago.
For the more than 4 million Americans who got Moderna or Pfizer as their second shot, the CDC says an additional booster is only necessary if they meet the newest criteria — a severely weakened immune system or are 50 or older.
Until now, the FDA had allowed a fourth vaccine dose only for the immune-compromised as young as 12. Only the Pfizer vaccine can be used in those as young as 12; Moderna's is for adults.
Any adults who received Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccines and a booster shot four months ago can also get another dose.
Learn more about potential side effects from the second booster and the latest plans for people not currently eligible in this round right here.
Great, I'm Eligible. Where Can I Get One?
New York City's sprawling public sites are open for second booster doses as of Thursday, though it's not immediately clear if every single site plans to offer them.
You've probably got a good shot walking in or making appointments at sites closest to you (find them here) to get the fourth dose, given there's been no dramatic influx of vaccine-seekers in recent weeks compared with earlier in the pandemic.
It wasn't immediately clear if the city planned to open new pop-up sites to accommodate the rollout. Pharmacies, meanwhile, are also ready to assist.
Rite Aid says all of its New York locations are now administering second boosters of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Walk-ins and appointments are accepted. CVS is also accepting second booster dose seekers via walk-in or appointment. Learn more about how to schedule one at that pharmacy network here.
As for Walgreens, it says it is now accepting walk-ins for second boosters across its network. Online scheduling for those shots opens up on Friday.
If none of those options work for you, you're advised to consult your primary care physician or doctor network about getting a shot at one of those facilities.
What Should I Know About BA.2 in NYC?
The new boosters come as vaccine demand rises, especially with infection trends rising yet again. New cases and positivity rates are inching up in New York City -- nowhere near where they were three months ago, but still, on the rise.
Transmission rates are rising, especially in Manhattan, up 40% in just the last week and nearly 100% in two weeks.
In Tribeca, the positivity rate is now over 9%, and multiple other neighborhoods in the city are nearing 7%. In absolute terms, though, the number of infections is still a tiny fraction of what it was two or three months ago. And according to health officials, the groups seeing the highest increases aren't eligible for another booster.
The BA.2 variant, sometimes called "stealth omicron," has now become dominant in the United States, fueling the rise in cases.
Ultimately, officials say BA.2's dominance was expected and it's expected that some other COVID variant will take its turn, too. That doesn't necessarily exacerbate community risk. In the city, the alert level is still "low."
BA.2 symptoms are similar to those experienced by people who contract other COVID strains, including fever or chills, runny nose and fatigue, among others.
But much remains unknown about the subvariant to date.
While the World Health Organization has said BA.2 is "inherently more transmissible" than the strain that came before it, there is no evidence at this point to indicate it is more vaccine-resistant or linked to more severe infections, which are far more critical benchmarks to city leaders. They're not in "alarmist" mode.