As COVID cases rise in Illinois and parts of the U.S. heading into summer, many are wondering which vaccinations they are eligible to receive and when.
Currently, not everyone is eligible for a second COVID booster shot, but experts are urging anyone who has not yet received their first booster dose to get one.
"I really, really want to emphasize as we move into this higher risk state that we need Chicagoans to come up-to-date with boosters," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said late last month as the city first entered the "high community level."
So who is eligible for which shots and what do we know about what's ahead?
Here's the latest:
Who is eligible for a COVID booster shot?
Currently, anyone who is eligible for vaccination can receive one booster shot at least five months after completing their first series.
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That includes, most recently, children ages 5 to 11. Federal regulators authorized a Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot for that age group in mid-May.
“We encourage every parent or guardian of children five and older to consider a booster vaccination for their eligible child,” IDPH Director Amaal Tokars said in a statement at the time. “And if your children have not yet received their primary dose, it’s not too late to start now."
The CDC's panel of independent vaccine experts voted overwhelmingly in favor of boosters for kids in the age group after reviewing and discussing the data during a five-hour public meeting. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed off on the recommendation later in the evening, giving pharmacies, doctors' offices, and other health-care providers the green light to start administering the shots.
When it comes to a second booster shot, however, only some groups are currently eligible.
Currently, Americans 50 and older can get a second COVID-19 booster if it’s been at least four months since their last vaccination. Those over 12 with weakened immune systems are also eligible.
When should you get you booster shot?
For those who are fully vaccinated, but not boosted, experts say many are "overdue."
"If you got vaccinated for COVID-19 in 2021 or 2020, but you haven't gotten a booster yet, meaning you've only had two shots, it is time," Arwady said. "You are technically overdue. Everyone over the age of 5 should have a vaccine booster and that should come at least five months after completing the initial vaccine series."
Booster shots should be administered at least five months after full vaccination.
When could more people be eligible for a second booster shot?
Chicago's top doctor said the rest of the population may not see authorization for a fourth COVID shot until the fall, when she predicts a new kind of booster could be finalized.
"I assume that we will probably see a version of a COVID vaccine that has been updated to be more specific to fight against, you know, alpha and delta and omicron and all the changes that the virus has had," she said. "I don't know for sure that that will be the case but that's my expectation."
The CDC has not yet said when authorization could come for additional age groups.
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