This photo, provided by Office of the Governor of New York, shows Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the Boriken Neighborhood Health Center, in New York, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022. (Don Pollard/Office of the Governor of New York via AP)
This photo, provided by Office of the Governor of New York, shows Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the Boriken Neighborhood Health Center, in New York, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022. (Don Pollard/Office of the Governor of New York via AP)

Cooler weather is on its way, and with that comes cold and flu season. …but did you know that while COVID-19 is still circulating, there’s a new booster shot available?

New booster shots targeted towards the omicron strain of COVID-19 are now available at pharmacies, doctors’ offices, clinics, and health departments across the commonwealth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that people who are 12 and older get one of the new COVID-19 booster shots, because of how quickly the novel coronavirus has mutated. 

Both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech have reformulated their COVID-19 vaccines to target the original coronavirus strain, as well as the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants that have caused recent infections in the population. 

In a press release, State Health Commissioner Colin M. Greene, MD, MPH talked about the importance of getting vaccinated, especially for elderly populations and people with “significant chronic disease,” as those groups are at the highest risk for severe illness and hospitalization because of the virus. 

“Being vaccinated and boosted significantly reduces this risk,” he said.

According to a study conducted by the Commonwealth Fund, an estimated 1.1 million additional deaths from COVID-19 and roughly 10.4 million hospitalizations were prevented because of COVID-19 vaccines in the United States. 

As of Sept. 14, 72.5% of Virginia’s total population has been fully vaccinated. Nearly 83% of Virginia’s total population has had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

If it has been at least two months since your most recent COVID-19 booster dose with the original booster, or at least two months since you’ve completed the primary series, it’s recommended that you get the updated booster. If you’ve had a recent COVID-19 infection, it should be at least two months since you recovered before you get the updated booster. 

The Pfizer-BioNTech booster is available for people 12 and older, while Moderna’s bivalent booster is available for people 18 and older.

The commonwealth’s 35 health districts have pre-ordered more than 100,000 vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech booster, while nearly 41,000 vials of Moderna’s booster have been pre-ordered through the Virginia Department of Health.

There are plenty of ways to find vaccination opportunities, including the Vaccinate Virginia website. You can also call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682) Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. to get more information. 

It’s also easy to search Virginia’s Vaccine Appointment Scheduling Engine (VASE+) to find nearby clinics offering the shot. You can search for clinics that are offering Pfizer and Moderna’s updated booster, as well as clinics that are vaccinating children.

COVID-19 isn’t going away any time soon, and it’s entirely possible that a COVID booster will be needed every year, much like the flu shot. Pharmacies across Virginia are also offering patients the chance to get their annual flu shot alongside the updated COVID-19 booster.