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Update Oct. 13, 2022: This story has been updated to add the latest recommendation from the CDC.
On Sept. 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended newly formulated bivalent COVID-19 booster vaccines for people ages 12 and up. The new boosters target the omicron BA.4 and BA.5 strains of the COVID-19 virus which are currently the most prevalent in the United States. Two versions of bivalent boosters are available: The Pfizer-BioNTech for people ages 12 years and older and Moderna for people ages 18 years and older. On Oct. 13, the CDC expanded the recommendation to include Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots for children ages 5-11 for and Moderna boosters for children ages 6-17.
Who is eligible for the bivalent COVID booster?
You are eligible if you have had the initial series of vaccines and it has been at least two months since your last COVID vaccine or booster. According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, just 56% of Kansans have completed the initial recommended COVID-19 vaccine series.
Where can I get the bivalent COVID booster?
Visit vaccines.gov and enter your ZIP code to find which COVID vaccines and boosters are available nearby. Availability varies depending on whether you want to get the Pfizer-BioNTech version for ages 12 and up, or the Moderna version for ages 18 and up.
The Pfizer-BioNTech is more widely available in Wichita. It can be found at 28 locations in Wichita, including a number of Walgreens, Dillon’s, CVS and Costco pharmacies, as well as the Sedgwick County Health Department, the Guadalupe Clinic, Dandurand Wellness and Leeker’s Family Pharmacy. Use vaccines.gov to find an exact location and schedule online.
The Moderna version is available at six Wichita locations: Professional Pharmacy, 401 N. Waco Ave.; Walgreens at 803 N. Broadway or 5555 S. Broadway; Dillons Pharmacy at 10515 W. Central or 7707 E. Central; and Costco, 9700 E. Kellogg.
Does it matter whether I get Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna?
Not really. Mixing and matching boosters is OK, maybe even a good idea, according to the National Institutes of Health.
What if I haven’t received any COVID-19 vaccine at all?
About one-third of Kansans have yet to receive a single COVID-19 vaccine. If you are in this group and want to know more about the types of vaccines you are eligible for based on age and health condition, and where those are available, visit vaccines.gov
Do I really need to still worry about getting COVID?
More than 1,050,600 Americans have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began in January 2020. Americans are still dying at a rate of 347 a day. While the risks of death from COVID-19 vary greatly by age and preexisting health conditions (with the risk rising with age), 1 in 5 who have had COVID-19 report continuing “long COVID” symptoms, which can have a dramatic effect on quality of life. Local health officials continue to try to overcome vaccine hesitancy to ensure everyone has some protection against these risks.
Don’t some people die from COVID-19 vaccines?
The Centers for Disease Control tracks what it calls “adverse events” involving deaths following vaccination. These come from medical reports, autopsy reports and death certificates. Between Dec. 14, 2020, and Sept. 14, 2022, 16,516 preliminary reports of death have been received. That is out of 612 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered during that period. That makes the risk about 1 in 37,000. Compare that to the 1 in 100 lifetime odds of dying in a car accident.