By Meredith Li-Vollmer
Public Health — Seattle & King County
This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that everyone 6 months and older get an updated COVID-19 vaccine to protect against the newer variants and potentially serious COVID-19 complications now ahead of possible increases in infection this fall and winter. We talked to Dr. Eric Chow, our Chief of Communicable Disease Epidemiology & Immunization, to get the latest about the updated COVID-19 vaccine.
Dr. Chow, why is there yet another COVID-19 vaccine?
COVID-19 viruses change, and that makes it harder for our bodies to fight off new versions, or variants, even if you’ve had COVID-19 or been vaccinated previously. It’s harder for your body’s immune system to fight off variants that are different than the ones it’s fought before.
That’s why it’s important to get an updated 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine. Updated vaccines protect against more recent variants and provides additional immune protection on top of what you had previously from both vaccines and infection.
At this point, a lot of people have had COVID-19 or have already been vaccinated. Is it still worth getting a new COVID-19 shot?
Absolutely. COVID-19 hasn’t gone away—in fact, we’ve been seeing a rise in the number of people going to King County emergency departments and hospitals for COVID-19. Updated vaccines protect against more recent variants even if you have had previous vaccinations or infections.
As with earlier vaccines, it’s still possible to get milder case of COVID-19, even if you get vaccinated. But the new COVID-19 vaccine will provide another layer of protection from severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.
And here is something I’ve been really struck by: studies are showing that people who are up-to-date with vaccinations have less long-lasting symptoms (“long COVID”). Long COVID symptoms include “brain fog” or difficulty thinking, difficulty breathing, depression, and fatigue, all conditions that interfere with daily living. Long COVID can affect anyone, not just those who are at high risk of COVID-19, so the new vaccine provides important protection for everyone.
Where can you get the new COVID-19 vaccine?
The new COVID-19 vaccine will start arriving at some local pharmacies and providers as early as the weekend of September 15, though many won’t have their supplies immediately. Check with your healthcare provider or clinic to see if they have it, or check the list of pharmacies and other locations on Vaccines.gov.
How will Public Health – Seattle & King County offer COVID-19 vaccination?
When Public Health receives our shipment of the new COVID-19 vaccine, we will offer it in several ways:
Starting Oct. 3, Public Health will also offer vaccinations to all age groups at a Vaccination Center in our Kent Public Health Center. Details and appointment scheduling will be posted in the coming week.
• In-home vaccination for people with an injury, disability, or condition that makes it difficult to leave home
• Mobile vaccination for people experiencing homelessness
• Vaccination for students at School Based Health Centers in many middle and high schools
• “Pop-up” community vaccination events
Check kingcounty.gov/vaccine for more information.
What’s the cost of getting a COVID-19 vaccine, especially now that the federal government ended the public health emergency for COVID-19?
Most insurance will cover the cost of COVID-19 vaccine, including Medicare and Medicaid/CHIP (“Apple Health”). One thing that’s different is that all vaccine locations will ask you if you have insurance. Make sure to have your insurance information with you when you schedule an appointment or go to get vaccinated.
What if you don’t have insurance, or if your insurance doesn’t cover vaccination?
The federal government has a Bridge Access program that covers people without insurance. Uninsured and underinsured adults will be able to get free COVID-19 vaccination from CVS, Walgreens, and some independent pharmacies as well as from Community Health Centers. Bridge Access locations will be listed on Vaccines.gov .
Public Health will open a vaccination site in early October at the Kent Public Health Center—you don’t need to be an enrolled patient to get vaccinated there. We’ll have more information soon, including registration for appointments, on kingcounty.gov/vaccine.
COVID-19 vaccine is free for children and teens under age 19 years. They can get COVID-19 vaccine for free from providers in the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program (see “Find a vaccination provider for uninsured/underinsured children” on kingcounty.gov/findaclinic). Students can also get vaccinated for free at the School Based Health Centers in many middle and high schools
Should I get the new 2023-24 COVID-19 vaccine even if I’ve had a booster? Or if I’ve never had a booster?
You should get the new vaccine if it’s been at least 2 months since you got a previous COVID-19 vaccine. Get the new vaccine if you’ve missed getting a booster earlier. If you’ve never gotten the COVID-19 vaccine, you will get the new COVID-19 vaccine as your first dose so that you’re protected against the latest variants.
Can I get the flu shot and the COVID-19 shot at the same time?
Yes, medical experts have determined that it’s safe to get the COVID-19 shot and the flu shot at the same time.