Sep 7, 2022 - COVID

Updated COVID boosters are now available in Arkansas

Animation of a syringe icon acting as a loading bar on a screen.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

You can now get a revamped COVID-19 booster shot designed to better protect against the most dominant strains of the virus.

Why it matters: The boosters are becoming available ahead of winter, when cases tend to rise, and can help ward off hospitalizations and death linked to the virus, Joel Tumlison, medical director for immunizations at the Arkansas Department of Health, said Tuesday afternoon during a call with reporters.

Catch up quick: The CDC last Thursday recommended reformulated Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 boosters that target the Omicron strain for people ages 12 and up.

  • The recommendation came after an outside panel of vaccine advisers earlier Thursday endorsed the boosters — the final regulatory hurdle before the updated shots can go into Americans' arms.

State of play: Arkansas began receiving its first shipments of the vaccines on Friday, and the state is now distributing them, Tumlison said. It's unclear how many pharmacies and clinics are already administering the shots, but Tumlison said he expects vaccines to be widely available by next week.

Details: Both Pfizer and Moderna boosters are ready, and it does not matter which vaccines you've previously had. You must have already completed a full series of shots (two Moderna or Pfizer, or one shot of Johnson & Johnson) and be two months out from your last shot, whether it was the completion of your initial series or a booster.

  • The updated shots are not yet approved for children 11 and younger.
  • Tumlison says those who have recently had the virus can get the shot as soon as their isolation period is over and does not recommend waiting more than 90 days.

How it works: The bivalent vaccines, or updated boosters, include an mRNA component in common between the BA.4 and BA.5 lineages of the Omicron variant that are causing most cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and are predicted to circulate this fall and winter, according to the FDA.

By the numbers: About 58% of the Arkansas population ages 5 and up is fully vaccinated, according to the health department.

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