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Americans can now receive an updated COVID-19 vaccine

Most Americans should receive an updated COVID-19 vaccine, health officials said Tuesday.

This photo provided by Pfizer in September 2023 shows single-dose vials of the company’s updated COVID vaccine for adults. U.S. regulators have approved updated COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, shots aimed at boosting protection this fall and winter. The Food and Drug Administration’s decision on Monday, September 11, 2023, is part of a change to treat fall COVID-19 vaccine updates much like an annual flu shot. (Pfizer via AP)

Most Americans should receive an updated COVID-19 vaccine, health officials said Tuesday.

Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the new shots for everyone ages 6 months and older, and the agency’s director quickly approved the panel’s recommendation Tuesday. That means doses should be available this week, some as early as Wednesday.

The severity of the COVID-19 pandemic has eased, but there are still thousands of hospitalizations and hundreds of deaths in the United States each week. Hospitalizations have been rising since late summer, although the latest data indicates infections may be starting to stabilize, particularly in the South.

Still, experts fear that immunity from vaccinations and previous infections will fade in many people and that a new shot would save many lives.

According to a survey cited last month by the CDC, about 42% said they would definitely or probably get the new vaccine. Yet only about 20% of adults received an updated booster when it was offered a year ago.

Doctors hope enough people will be vaccinated to avoid another “tripledemia” like last year, when hospitals were overwhelmed by an early flu season, an attack of RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, and a new winter surge of coronavirus.

Here’s what you need to know about the new COVID-19 vaccines:



The Food and Drug Administration approved the updated shots from Pfizer and Moderna for adults and children as young as 6 months. The FDA said that starting at age 5, most people can receive a single dose even if they have never received a COVID-19 vaccine before. Younger children may need additional doses depending on their history of COVID-19 infections and vaccinations.

The CDC decides how best to use vaccines and makes recommendations to American doctors and the general public. The agency’s panel of outside experts recommended the updated COVID-19 shots by a vote of 13 to 1. The no vote came from a panel member who had argued that the new shots should not initially be recommended only for older adults and those at highest risk of serious illness. But other panel members said all ages could — and should — benefit.

“We need to make vaccination recommendations as clear as possible,” said panel member Dr. Camille Kotton, an infectious disease physician at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Where can I get vaccinated?

The new vaccine will be available in pharmacies, health centers and some doctor’s offices. Locations will be listed on the government’s website. The list price for a dose of each injection is $120 to $130, depending on the manufacturers. But federal officials have said the new COVID-19 vaccines will still be free to most Americans through private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. For uninsured or underinsured people, the CDC is working with health departments, clinics and some pharmacies to temporarily provide free shots.

On Tuesday, a Pfizer official said his company expected doses to be available at some U.S. sites as early as Wednesday.


In the same way that flu vaccines are updated every year, the FDA has given COVID-19 vaccine makers a new recipe for this fall. The updated shots have a single target, an omicron descendant named XBB.1.5. It’s a big change. The COVID-19 vaccines offered since last year have been combination shots targeting the original strain of the coronavirus and a much earlier omicron version, making them very outdated.

Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax have all made new products, and the FDA approved Pfizer and Moderna’s shots on Monday. Novavax’s updated vaccine is still under review.


Health officials are optimistic, barring a new mutant. As expected, XBB.1.5 disappeared during the months it took for the vaccine to be developed. Today, there are a multitude of different disease-causing variants of the coronavirus, and the most common are fairly close relatives. Recent laboratory tests by vaccine makers and other research groups suggest that the updated vaccines will provide cross-protection.

Previous vaccinations or infections have continued to help prevent serious illness and death, but protection wanes over time, particularly against milder infections, as the virus continually evolves. The FDA allowed seniors and other high-risk people to receive an additional booster dose last spring. But most Americans haven’t been vaccinated in about a year.

Can I get the flu and COVID-19 vaccine at the same time?

Yes. The CDC says there is no difference in effectiveness or side effects if people receive these vaccines simultaneously, although one vaccine in each arm might be more comfortable. The CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for almost everyone ages 6 months and older. The best time is at the end of October.


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Education Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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