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RALEIGH — Updated boosters are becoming available in North Carolina, following the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) announcement this week that people 12 and older can receive an updated booster to protect against the latest COVID-19 variants. Vaccines are beginning to arrive in the state and vaccine appointments will be more widely available starting next week.
“Updated COVID-19 boosters are becoming available in North Carolina. This vaccine will provide the most up-to-date protection against the latest variants and will help renew your body’s defense system against severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19,” said North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. “As the weather gets colder and we spend more time indoors, it is important to know you are protected before you go to gatherings, which means getting your COVID-19 vaccines and boosters.”
The updated booster is referred to as a bivalent vaccine as it targets both the original coronavirus strain and the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. It relies on safety and efficacy data from initial clinical trials, studies of bivalent boosters, and extensive safety and effectiveness monitoring. This process is similar to the one used to create the annual flu vaccine, which targets new strains each year. As of mid-August, these subvariants made up nearly 90% of COVID-19 cases in North Carolina. People aged 5-11 years can still receive the original booster, but it is expected that the updated booster will be available for younger people in the coming weeks.
The booster, like all COVID-19 vaccines, is safe to get alongside the annual flu vaccine. People should get their flu vaccine as early as this month to build up immunity before the virus becomes widespread in late fall and winter.
“Many of those who are at high risk for serious flu complications — older people, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems — are also at risk of severe COVID-19 complications,” said NCDHHS State Health Director and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson. “COVID-19 and flu shots can be taken together, and we encourage all North Carolinians to stay up to date on both.”
COVID-19 vaccines are free to everyone, regardless of insurance or immigration status. Flu vaccines are often available at little-to-no cost.
People should get the updated COVID-19 booster two months after they finish their primary series or any booster dose. North Carolina’s actions are based on recommendations from the FDA, CDC and evaluation by NCDHHS. Read the CDC’s full statement here.
For more information about COVID-19 vaccines, boosters, testing and treatments, or to find locations to get a COVID-19 and flu vaccine, visit MySpot.nc.gov or contact the North Carolina COVID-19 Vaccine Help Center by phone at 888-675-4567.