Chicago-area Walgreens locations are now booking appointments for the newly approved COVID booster shots that specifically target the highly contagious BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants, the pharmacy said in a release Friday.
“This season, we encourage everyone to stay protected by getting vaccinated with this more targeted updated COVID-19 booster in addition to receiving their flu shot or other routine immunizations in a single visit," Dr. Anita Patel, vice president of Walgreens' Pharmacy Services Development, said in the release.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday cleared the reformulated COVID shots following a nearly seven-hour meeting and a 13-1 vote by the agency's independent committee on vaccines. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed off on the shots a few hours later, clearing the way for pharmacies to soon start administering the boosters.
But the shot isn't cleared for all ages, and the timing of an individual's last dose matters.
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Only those who have completed a full COVID vaccine series, which consists of either of two Moderna or Pfizer shots or one Johnson & Johnson shot, are eligible.
Here's what to know about the shots, and how to make an appointment at Walgreens to get one.
Who Can Get the New Booster? Who Should Get It?
According to the CDC, individuals 18 and older are eligible to receive either Pfizer’s or Moderna’s updated COVID booster shot.
While those younger than 18 years old are eligible for the new COVID booster, they aren't eligible for the Moderna dose. Only Pfizer booster doses can be administered to those aged 12 through 17.
According to a statement put out by the CDC Thursday, the Pfizer booster is recommended for anyone 12 and older, and the Moderna booster is recommended for anyone 18 and older.
Booster Shot Timing
The updated booster dose can be given to eligible individuals at least 2 months after they've received their last booster dose, the CDC says.
Make an Appointment
According to Walgreens, scheduling an appointment for the new omicron-targeted booster shot can be made one of the following ways:
- Via Walgreens app
- Calling 1-800-WALGREENS
- Online, at Walgreens.com/ScheduleVaccine
Additional appointments will be added as select Walgreens locations begin to receive the updated boosters, the pharmacy says.
According to an update earlier this week from Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, the booster availability at Walgreens comes a few days ahead of when the city of Chicago expected to receive the new vaccines.
"Coming soon after Labor Day, updated COVID-19 vaccines and these new ... bivalent boosters, as you may know already, are targeted specifically toward the omicron subvariants, the BA.4 and the BA.5 that are what are circulating right now," Arwady said. "It's the first time we've had an updated COVID vaccine since the vaccine rollout."
Chicago has been given 150,000 doses of the updated vaccine from the federal government, which are expected to begin shipping this week.
CVS told NBC 5 that, once the vaccine receives its final approval, it expects to begin receiving supply "on a rolling basis over the next few days."
On Friday, the Illinois Department of Public Health urged all who are eligible to take advantage of the new bivalent boosters.
"I urge everyone in Illinois who is eligible to take advantage of the opportunity to get fully protected before we enter the fall season,” said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra in a statement. “These new bivalent vaccines are designed to offer extra protection against the omicron variants which are now the dominant strain of the virus. Getting up to date now is especially important for those who are at risk of serious outcomes as the updated vaccines offer protection from hospitalization and even death.”
IDPH says there are 26,127 new cases of COVID cases reported in Illinois in the past week.
According to the department, the state expects to receive 580,000 doses -- in addition to Chicago's 150,000 doses -- of the new vaccines for distribution in the next week.