Newly updated COVID vaccine booster shots designed to target omicron's wildly contagious BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants are now available in New York, but initial eligibility is limited to those covered by guidance from the CDC, the governor's office announced Wednesday.
First up are people 12 years and older who are at least two months past their previous booster or their original completed vaccine series, Gov. Kathy Hochul's office says. Those younger than 18 must use the Pfizer-BioNTech version. Adults can use either Pfizer's vaccine or Moderna's.
Providers in New York were able to pre-order these new boosters until August 30, with shipping of pre-ordered doses beginning late last week and already arriving at some locations. Eligible New Yorkers interested in getting an updated booster can visit vaccines.gov, text their ZIP codes to 438829 or call 1-800-232-0233 to find nearby locations.
The shots will be available at local pharmacies and other locations, so you can check there directly or with your primary care provider or local health department regarding appointments.
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"Getting vaccinated and boosted remains our best shot at protecting ourselves and fellow New Yorkers, and I encourage everyone eligible to sign up and get the updated bivalent COVID-19 booster," Hochul said shortly before her own booster was administered at East Harlem's Boriken Neighborhood Health Center earlier Wednesday.
Hochul unveiled the new booster guidance on the same day she announced the longstanding MTA COVID mask mandate has ended. The mandate also ended for for-hire vehicles, airports, homeless shelters, correctional facilities and detention centers but remains in effect for adult care and state-regulated health facilities, the Democrat said.
In the coming days, the state Department of Health will be issuing updated clinical guidance on the administration of the updated boosters to all providers enrolled in its vaccination program. Providers that pre-ordered and received the COVID-19 bivalent booster doses are now authorized to begin administering them in accordance with the Federal Food and Drug Administration's emergency use authorization for these boosters and the updated CDC recommendations, the state says.
Providers should also note that monovalent, the earlier, mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are no longer authorized for use as boosters for people ages 12 years or older, according to the updated federal guidance. Scheduled appointments to administer monovalent Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna boosters to people 12 years of age or older must be rescheduled for when locations have the omicron-specific COVID-19 vaccines available.
In the weeks ahead, the CDC also indicated that it expects to recommend updated COVID-19 boosters for younger pediatric groups, as well. Until then, the monovalent mRNA Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine remains authorized for use as boosters in children ages 5 through 11 and for all primary series vaccinations.
The state Department of Health continues to share CDC's recommendation that all eligible adults, adolescents, and children five years and older get fully vaccinated and receive the COVID-19 booster when eligible.
"The novel coronavirus has changed over time, with many new variants, including omicron," New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a statement. "These bivalent boosters for the first time are tailored to a circulating variant. I encourage all eligible New Yorkers to take advantage of this advance and contact their health provider, visit the local pharmacy, or call their county health department to get this booster as soon as possible."