As new, highly-transmissible omicron subvariants spread across the U.S., in some cases evading immunity from earlier infections, many are wondering if they are eligible for a second COVID booster shot and, if so, when?
Currently, not everyone is eligible for a second booster, but experts are urging those who are to get it now.
So who is eligible for which shots and what do we know about what's ahead?
Here's the latest:
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Who is eligible for their 1st COVID booster shot?
Currently, anyone over the age of 5 can receive one booster shot at least five months after completing their first series.
"You should have had a booster by now," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said during a Facebook Live Tuesday. "Everybody over the age of 5, unless you're just started getting vaccinated, should have had at least three vaccines - J&J and then two boosters or two Pfizer, Moderna and one booster. So everybody should have had at least three vaccines."
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Most recently, federal regulators authorized a Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot for ages 5 to 11 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.
Who is eligible for a 2nd COVID booster shot?
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.
"The reason to do that booster is especially for people, again, who are at high risk," Arwady said. "Europe has still not broadly even recommended a second booster for people over 50 or even over 60 and in that setting they are starting to really see, you know, not just cases, but hospitalizations really go up and so there is a general feeling that, especially if people are getting more severe outcomes, you want to make sure those people are protected," Arwady said. "So this is why the move and the strong recommendation for anybody over 50 - get that second booster please. Get it now."
While there is speculation of an omicron-specific vaccine on the horizon, Arwady said those who are eligible for second boosters shouldn't wait.
"We may get to a point where we might encourage people, you know, if we know on the horizon there's an improved booster coming let's say in October. We might say - and I'm making this up, I want you to be clear - we might be saying in September, you know, hold off at this point for the new one, but for July, August through September, please get that second booster now," Arwady said. "While we've got this the most infectious variant yet that's circulating, especially if you're at higher risk."
When should you get a booster shot?
For those who are fully vaccinated, but not boosted, experts say many are "overdue."
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.
"The updated vaccine in the fall is likely to be more protective against infection because it will cover a lot of the variants that have come along since, you know, alpha and delta and omicron," Arwady said, adding that "it's going to be a new formulation of the vaccine that's been brought up-to-date."
The CDC has not yet said when authorization could come for additional age groups.