The latest COVID-19 booster is now available in New Hampshire.
Here’s a rundown of who can get a booster shot, why people need it and where, locally, to get it:
Who can get a booster?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends anyone 12 and older who has already received the primary vaccine series get the updated booster shot.
Why do I need another booster?
The latest booster is an updated version of the original vaccines that federal officials authorized earlier in the pandemic. The new formula targets the omicron variant, currently the dominant strain of COVID-19.
Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, said the booster is also needed because public health experts are seeing reduced protection over time against the virus.
The booster shot will help strengthen this protection, which Schaffner said is especially important for people at higher risk of developing severe complications from the disease, like those who are elderly or immunocompromised.
And as we head into the colder months — with more time spent indoors — Schaffner noted that it’s likely the number of COVID-19 cases will spike, as we’ve seen the past two winters.
“We want everyone to be as best protected as possible,” he said.
When should I get the booster?
It depends. Overall, it’s best to get your booster as soon as you can, especially before COVID-19 cases potentially tick up again. The booster needs to be administered at least two months after your last vaccine dose.
Schaffner noted he’s heard of people being strategic with their next boosters, such as planning to get inoculated right before a vacation. He said if you have no underlying risk factors and are otherwise healthy, it’s “not a bad idea.”
“But in the meantime, be careful you don’t pick up COVID in your own community while you’re waiting,” he said.
Liza Drew, occupational health manager at Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough, encouraged people to speak with their doctor about when would be best for them to get boosted.
If I recently had COVID-19, when can I get the booster?
The CDC recommends that you wait at least three months from when your symptoms started or, if you had no symptoms, when you received a positive test before you get the latest booster or any other COVID-19 vaccine.
What should I expect during and after my shot?
At your booster shot appointment, you’ll need to bring your COVID-19 vaccination card, according to the CDC. Afterward, the CDC says, you may experience side effects, just like after the initial shot(s). These are normal, the federal health agency reassures, as your body builds protection against the virus.
Side effects can include pain and swelling at the injection site, fatigue, fever, chills and nausea.
Where can I get the booster?
You can get the booster at your local doctor’s office or pharmacy. Check with your preferred location for details.
Cheshire Medical Center in Keene is also hosting two clinics for its patients on Saturday, Oct. 15, and Saturday, Nov. 5. Primary doses of the COVID-19 vaccines and the flu shot will also be available at those times. To make an appointment for one of the clinics, visit the online patient portal at myDH.org or call your provider directly.
Health officials are encouraging people to also get their influenza shot this fall to keep themselves and others protected. Drew and Schaffner noted the flu and COVID-19 shots can be administered at the same time.
What will a booster shot cost me?
Like the initial doses of the vaccine, booster shots are free, regardless of insurance status.
For more information on the COVID-19 vaccines, visit the CDC’s website.