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The wait for a COVID-19 booster shot that covers the omicron variant may soon be over in North Carolina.

Last Wednesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved updated shots for recently the original and newly evolved variants of COVID-19.

Nearly 500,000 doses will arrive in North Carolina over the next two weeks, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

Almost half of those doses will go to pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens.

When and where will vaccines be available?

The booster shot for people age 12 and older was to be available first, possibly as early as Tuesday, Sept. 6, according to NCDHHS. That booster is produced by Pfizer-BioNTech, according to the FDA.

You can find a list of vaccination sites at vaccines.gov. You can also call 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489).

Which vaccines are available for the new booster shot against omicron?

Both Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are available as boosters.

Who is eligible to receive this booster?

According to the FDA, anyone age 18 or older is eligible to receive the updated Moderna booster shot as long as it has been at least two months since either the last booster shot or the final shot in their primary vaccination regimen for COVID-19 was received.

Those age 12 and older are eligible for a single-dose booster shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine if it has been at least two months since either a booster shot or their primary vaccination for COVID-19 was received.

Who cannot receive a new booster shot?

Anyone younger than age 12 cannot receive the new booster shots yet, and the FDA plans to “evaluate future data and submissions to support authorization of bivalent COVID-19 boosters for additional age groups as we receive them.”

What is different about these vaccines?

They are both considered “bivalent” vaccines, which means they protect against two strains of coronavirus: original strain of COVID-19 as well as the more recently evolved omicron variants.

The original boosters, which do not protect as well against recently emerged strains of coronavirus, are no longer recommended for people age 12 and older.

What are officials concerned about with the omicron variants?

The World Health Organization labeled BA.2, also called omicron, as variants of concern late last year. It is the dominant variant circulating globally, and it has an increased risk of reinfection. 

Like the original vaccines, the bivalent version will protect against the most serious outcomes, which require hospitalization or cause death.

Kate Martin

Kate Martin is lead investigative reporter for Carolina Public Press. Email her at kmartin@carolinapublicpress.org.