What to know about the new COVID-19 vaccine shots
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The Gazette, Colorado Springs
LOCAL & STATE
The new COVID-19 vaccine shots will be rolling out across the country soon after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted to recommend the updated booster to anyone who is 6 months and older. I’m talking with the experts with the state health department about what you need to know and when the new boosters will be available in Colorado. “They were just approved at the federal level (last week) and we’ve been told that they are going to start shipping soon,” said Scott Bookman, the senior director for public health readiness and response, Department of Public Health and Environment. “We could have some in the state as early as this week, but we certainly expect supply to increase over the coming weeks and there will be enough vaccine for everybody who wants to get this booster.” The updated COVID-19 vaccines target the omicron variant XBB.1.5. “As the virus evolves, our vaccines need to evolve as well, and so the formulation being released right now is tuned to the virus that has been circulating predominantly across the country,” said Bookman. As we approach fall, health officials are anticipating an increase in cases, along with the flu and RSV. “Across the country, and in Colorado, we have seen a steady increase in COVID cases over the last several weeks — nothing like what we have seen in previous waves of the pandemic — and we are entering into respiratory virus season here in the coming weeks and coming months. So, we do anticipate seeing increases in all of these circulating viruses, which is why it is so important for people to go ahead and get this dose as soon as they can,” said Bookman. I asked Bookman what we can expect this season. “It’s always a little challenging to compare year over year, as we’ve seen differences in testing practices across the state and across the country. So, the metric we’re always able to look at is hospitalizations,” said Bookman. “Today, there would have been approximately 120 people hospitalized with COVID. That is far from the week of 1,800 that we saw in some of the most severe waves. The message that we want to get out is that for some people COVID is still a very, very serious illness and we want to make sure people are protecting themselves, protecting their loved ones. The best way to do that is to go ahead and get this updated booster.” In a recent CBS News poll, only 43% of people plan to get the new booster. I asked what health officials can say to folks who may have COVID “fatigue.” “We can understand why people would be tired of talking about COVID. It has been a long couple of years, and I think we’re all — myself included — we’re happy to see that pandemic emergency response phase in the rearview mirror,” said Bookman. “That being said, COVID is still here and COVID is going to be with us, and we need to make sure that as individuals and as a community that we are taking steps to reduce the impacts of this virus. So it’s critical that people stay up to date on their vaccine, stay home when you’re sick, good hand-washing practices, early testing and if you test positive reach out to your health care provider to see if you are eligible for some of the medications like Paxlovid. “You can go to your pharmacy, you can go to your health care provider and you can get your flu shot and COVID shot together,” he added. Find a list of vaccine providers and other information on the state’s website, COVID19. Colorado.gov.