How to get the new COVID-19 booster in Utah — and whether or not you should get it now

The modified “bivalent” shot, which targets common omicron strains, was endorsed last week by the CDC.

(Pfizer via AP) This August 2022 photo provided by Pfizer shows vials of the company's updated COVID-19 vaccine during production in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Doses began arriving in Utah shortly after U.S. regulators last week authorized the updated boosters, the first to directly target today's most common omicron strain.

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New coronavirus booster shots designed to target the highly contagious omicron variant are now “widely available” to Utahns, according to Salt Lake County Health Department spokesperson Nicholas Rupp.

Doses of the new booster began arriving in Utah shortly after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed it last week. The state expects to receive about 111,000 doses by the end of this week, according to Charla Haley, spokesperson for the Utah Department of Health and Human Services.

The new “bivalent” shot targets the most common omicron strains, BA.4 and BA.5, which currently account for nearly all infections in the U.S. The shots are considered bivalent, or a combination, because they contain half the original vaccine and half the new omicron protection, The Associated Press reported.

Who is eligible for the new booster?

Anyone 12 or older who hasn’t been boosted in the last two months — but who did complete their initial coronavirus vaccination series — is eligible for the new booster, Rupp said.

Moderna boosters are only available for those age 18 and older, while the Pfizer version is available for those 12 and older, Rupp said.

Children under the age of 12 are not eligible to receive the new bivalent booster, he said.

Where can I get the new booster?

To view a list of free community vaccination clinics throughout Utah, go to coronavirus.utah.gov/vaccine-distribution. People can also receive their booster at some pharmacies and doctor’s offices.

In Salt Lake County, you can schedule a booster appointment by visiting SaltLakeHealth.org or by calling 385-468-SHOT. There were still appointment slots available as of Tuesday.

Should I wait to get my booster?

The FDA set the minimum wait time at two months since receiving your last booster dose. Early research also indicates that getting the new bivalent booster within two to three months after your last booster provides only a small amount of protection, Rupp said, and that you stand to get more protection after three months.

But it depends on your circumstances. If you’re planning on traveling internationally or attending a crowded indoor event, for example, Rupp said it would be worth it to get it sooner and have that extra level of protection.

Otherwise, it’s worth waiting until at least three months have passed since your last booster, so you get “more bang for your buck,” Rupp said.

If you had COVID-19 recently, the CDC also advises that you should consider deferring your initial vaccination or booster dose for about three months from the date of symptom onset (or positive test result, if you did not develop symptoms).

That’s because studies suggest that increased time between infection and vaccination may result in an improved immune response. Generally, those who develop COVID-19 carry a low risk of reinfection in the weeks to months after falling ill, according to the CDC.

As Rupp advised, circumstances also matter, including individual risk factors and COVID-19 community levels, which are calculated by the CDC.

In Utah as of Thursday, nearly every county had a “low” COVID-19 community level except for Wayne and Cache counties, which had a “medium” level. San Juan County marked the only county in Utah with a “high” COVID-19 community level. The CDC has said that people in high community COVID-19 level areas should wear a mask in public indoor spaces. No counties in Utah require masking.

If you are unsure about waiting, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement Thursday that “there is no bad time to get your COVID-19 booster.” If you are eligible, she said, “I strongly encourage you to receive it.”