AUSTIN (KXAN) — Some doses of the updated COVID-19 booster shots are now available in the Austin area– and already going into arms.
On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved updated boosters from Pfizer and Moderna. The updated shots should better protect people against BA.4 and BA.5 variants. The bivalent booster recommendation replaces prior booster recommendations for people ages 12 and older.
Peoples Rx’s North Lamar location is one location administering the new shots by appointment and walk-ins. It received 100 initial doses.
“I read online and heard from a friend, both, that they had the bivalent booster ready,” said Anna Reed, who came in on Tuesday for her appointment. “I wanted to come here instead of a bigger chain because I’m excited about supporting small businesses in Austin.”
Peoples Rx pharmacy director Nicola Trevis said vaccine demand waned over the summer, but the pharmacy received more phone calls and emails this week looking for the new booster. People can schedule appointments online, and Trevis said they can schedule their COVID vaccines and other vaccines at the same time.
KXAN also found open appointment slots for this week for HEB in Hutto and Kyle.
Other pharmacies and providers say they’re expecting their doses soon.
Austin Public Health said on Monday it ordered the new boosters and will give more details on the vaccines soon.
Williamson County and Cities Health District said it will offer the new boosters at its four health clinics, but it hasn’t received them yet. It hopes to receive doses this week, a spokesperson said.
Austin Regional Clinic is expecting to receive new boosters between Sept. 8 and 15 and will send the new boosters to its 24 primary care clinics once it gets shipments, according to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Manish Naik. Appointments can be scheduled online after the new boosters are available.
Tarrytown Pharmacy expects its first shipment Wednesday or Thursday, but also a limited quantity, to start.
Pharmacist-in-Charge Rannon Ching said he’ll only be getting about 8% of what he ordered.
“We have a lot of people asking about it, but we don’t actually have the vaccines in hand quite yet,” Ching said.
He said he’ll send out communication to patients once they get their shipment, which will go by a first-come, first-serve appointment basis.
“The demand is there to receive the vaccine just because [the CDC] also opened it up to so many more people; before it was just 50 and up and then now it’s anyone 12 and older for Pfizer and 18 and older for Moderna,” he explained.
The CDC said it expects updated booster recommendations in the coming weeks for other pediatric groups.
But Dr. Ogechika Alozie with the Texas Medical Association’s COVID-19 task force said not everyone has to rush to get the new booster.
“I understand what the FDA and the Advisory Board had said that everybody should get it. But I think that’s too easy.And I’m actually disappointed in them and making a one size fits all recommendation, because in 2022, COVID is not a one size fits all,” he said.
He said for his older and immune-compromised patients, it’s a “no-brainer,” including pregnant women.
“Right now, my recommendation to my patients is if you’re older and immune, fragile, go get it and if you’re not, it’s fair to wait as well,” said Alozie, who is also an infectious disease specialist.
He said especially while doses are limited, each patient should consider what’s best for them.
“Do we expect it to work? Absolutely, I think the data is pretty clear, and it provides protection to those that are the sickest of us,” Alozie explained. “My conversation is if you’re 25, or 30, and healthy, have been vaccinated and had COVID, I think it’s a stretch to say that this is going to change anything.”
He wants to focus messaging on people who are most at-risk of being hospitalized due to COVID-19.
The Texas Department of State Health Services said about 200,000 bivalent boosters shipped to large pharmacies last week.
Another 900,000 doses for Texans will go to health care providers, smaller pharmacies and clinics. These began shipping this week, a DSHS spokesperson said.
People should check with their pharmacy, doctor or local health department for booster availability, the spokesperson said. Vaccine and booster availability is also available on www.vaccines.gov.
During a White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing Tuesday, Health Secretary Xavier Becerra said Americans can visit www.vaccines.gov to find locations near them with the new vaccines.
“By the end of this week, over 90% of Americans will live within five miles of these new, updated vaccines,” Becerra said.
“They can help restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination and were designed to provide broader protection against newer variants,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.
All COVID-19 booster shots will now be the new, bivalent versions
“The CDC and the FDA still have the recommendation that if you’ve never had a vaccine before, and you’re getting either your first or your second dose, that will still be the old formulation, but anything booster-related will be this new formulation,” he explained.
He said Tarrytown Pharmacy will still keep the old vaccines on the shelves for people who still need their initial shots, but said since that number is small, they won’t be keeping much of it.
“I think we can keep a smaller supply of the originals, just in case someone hasn’t gotten their vaccine yet. But we’re really starting to transition over to the new booster,” he said.
How long you should wait for your booster
The CDC recommends getting that booster two months after your last booster or your initial first and second vaccine, and about three months from the time you might have contracted COVID-19.
“Whether it be two months from your last shot or three months after you were sick with COVID, that will kind of help spread the small supply a little bit better,” Ching said.
The new booster hasn’t been tested on humans
“I think what we know about the booster is it was tested in eight mice, right?” said Dr. Alozie.
But, he said, it’s expected to work– and the method isn’t unheard of.
“For those people that might be nervous and want to wait, that’s totally fine. But if people are thinking, ‘You know, well, they didn’t test this, and we didn’t have a clinical trial, all of these things. It’s pretty common for your annual flu shots do something very similar. So it’s not like this has never been done before,” Ching explained.
You can schedule your booster with other vaccines
“There is no recommended waiting period between getting a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines. You can get a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines, including a flu vaccine, at the same visit. Experience with other vaccines has shown that the way our bodies develop protection, known as an immune response, and possible side effects after getting vaccinated are generally the same when given alone or with other vaccines,” said Nicola Trevis with Peoples RX.