The newly approved updated COVID-19 vaccine should be available as soon as the end of the week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants Americans to know the shots are:

  • Recommended for everyone 6 months and older, if it’s been at least two months since a previous dose.
  • Free for most, even though the federal government no longer covers the cost, through insurance. For those without coverage, there will be free shots at public health agencies and some pharmacies.
  • Still “the best protection against COVID-19-related hospitalization and death,” and also reduce the chances of facing long COVID, lingering and often debilitating symptoms that can last for months or even years.
  • Expected to restore and enhance protection “against the variants currently responsible for most infections and hospitalizations in the United States” despite being targeted against XBB.1.5 or Kraken variant that circulated over the spring and early summer.
  • Considered safe, based on earlier versions being administered to hundreds of millions of people “under the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history.”
  • Offered along with vaccines for RSV or respiratory syncytial virus, and flu. It’s the first fall and winter virus season where shots are available against the three viruses responsible for the most hospitalizations — and last year’s “tripledemic” of infections.
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Updated COVID-19 vaccines recommended for everyone 6 months and older
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The new Pfizer and Moderna shots got the final go-ahead from CDC Director Dr. Mandy Cohen on Tuesday, after a 13-1 vote by the federal agency’s independent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

The lone dissent over recommending the updated vaccine universally came from Dr. Pablo Sanchez, a pediatrician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio, who reportedly had concerns about the “extremely limited data on children.”

The new shots were approved Monday by the Food and Drug Administration.

The last time a new COVID-19 vaccine was offered was more than a year ago, when the original shots were reformulated into a bivalant booster dose that also went after a currently circulating variant of the virus.

Only 17% of people nationwide have gotten that booster shot, the CDC says. In Utah, that number is even lower, less than 16% of the population, according to the Utah Department of Health and Human Services.

Interest in the booster shots has remained low despite an uptick in COVID-19 hospitalizations and other indicators across the country and in Utah that started mid-summer and have renewed talk of masking and other precautions.

Even though the numbers are lower than in past surges, COVID-19 “continues to be a major cause of serious respiratory illnesses,” with more than 200,000 deaths reported in the U.S. since January 2022, including more than 600 ages 19 and younger, according to the CDC.

Although the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk from COVID-19, the agency pointed out “healthy adults and children can still experience severe disease.”