Sep 6, 2022 - COVID

New COVID booster now available in Chicago. Here's what it's like

Arm with a sticker and bandaid for vaccine
Booster recipients get a sticker and a bandage. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Boy is my arm sore.

What happened: I got one of the first doses of the new COVID booster that targets Omicron BA. 4 and 5 that now make up all local cases.

  • It quietly arrived at local pharmacies this weekend. Some immediately started offering it to walk-in customers — like my mom who called me lickety-split.

Why it matters: Health Commissioner Allison Arwady says the timely uptake of this new booster could prevent another COVID surge this fall.

  • It's probably the last one people can get free.

The intrigue: Saturday morning several Walgreens locations told me they had the new vaccine — some got Pfizer, others Moderna — but wouldn't offer it until Wednesday when their online appointments open.

  • Walgreens reps did not respond to weekend requests for comment on the walk-in versus appointment discrepancy.
  • But a Walgreens press release says, "For the best experience, individuals are encouraged to make appointments."

Context: To speed the distribution of this version, manufacturers were able to skip large-scale human testing.

  • When the nurse was giving me my jab and I asked about side effects she said, "Hard to say. They just started giving it to humans yesterday."

My experience: After finding a nearby walk-in Walgreens, I rode my bike over, filled out some forms and got my jab all within 15 minutes.

  • Plus I got a bag of eight free home tests covered by my health insurance.

The reaction: I still feel like someone punched me in the shoulder, but otherwise I'm fine as I write this on Monday.

Yes but: I've only ever had mild responses to COVID shots.

The bottom line: Based on uptake of the last two boosters, experts predict that only one-third of fully vaccinated people will get the latest booster.

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