State health authorities are encouraging eligible Wisconsinites to get a COVID-19 booster shot this fall. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed updated boosters for most people ages 12 and older who have completed the primary vaccine series.
The updated booster is bivalent, meaning it targets both the original virus strain and the newer omicron subvariants known as BA.4 and BA.5. It is recommended for people over the age of 12 who have completed the primary COVID-19 vaccine series and have not received another COVID-19 vaccine dose in the past two months.
The updated booster shots will be given instead of the old version of the booster to people who are eligible. Children ages 5 to 11 are still able to receive the original booster shot.
"COVID-19 vaccines continue to show that they are effective at reducing severe symptoms that can result in hospitalization and death," Wisconsin Department of Health Services Division of Public Health Immunization Program Manager Stephanie Schauer said in a statement. "The updated boosters can help restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination or infection, and provide broader protection against newer variants."
The new bivalent boosters are manufactured by both Pfizer and Moderna, with Pfizer authorized for ages 12 and up and Moderna authorized for ages 18 and up.
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According to Dr. Ryan Westergaard, DHS chief medical officer of the bureau of communicable diseases, bivalent booster doses have already started to arrive at pharmacies, clinics, and health care centers across the state. Appointments are available in some places now, he said.
"Booster doses are common for many vaccines," Westergaard said. "As public health experts monitor the way the virus that causes COVID-19 changes over time, these updated boosters are recommended to help ensure more people across the U.S. will be better protected."
DHS has requested 114,000 doses of the bivalent booster from the federal government, the highest number available, Westergaard said. Pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS have separate allocations, he said.
More than 2.6 million booster doses have already been administered in Wisconsin since they were first authorized last fall.
Booster appointments can be found online at vaccines.gov, and any booster appointments made there for ages 12 and up will be for the updated vaccine, Westergaard said. According to DHS, people can get other vaccines at the same time, including the flu shot.