Area health departments hope to soon offer updated COVID-10 booster shots for better protection against the virus.
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new version of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, which target the dominant omicron variant.
Illinois is set to receive 580,000 doses of the new booster, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The exact amount of doses each county will get, along with the schedule for distributing them has not yet been determined, but the state expects to receive the doses within the week or so, and distribution should start soon after.
The Lee County Health Department expects to receive doses sometime this month and will then schedule community health clinics, health Administrator Cathy Ferguson-Allen said.
“I’m happy we will have this additional public health tool available soon,” she said. “Not only will it target the original strain of Coronavirus, and help restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination but also target the Omicron variant that has been even more contagious.”
Until now, COVID-19 vaccines have targeted the original coronavirus strain, even as different mutants have emerged. The new U.S. boosters are combination, or “bivalent,” shots. They contain half that original vaccine recipe and half protection against the newest omicron versions, called BA.4 and BA.5, which are considered the most contagious yet.
The combination aims to increase cross-protection against multiple variants and blunt a winter surge in cases.
“We expect the updated boosters to become available for approved age groups shortly and will share additional information as it becomes available,” according to the Whiteside County Health Department.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed recommendations to use the updated shots shortly after the FDA approval.
According to CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky:
“The updated COVID-19 boosters are formulated to better protect against the most recently circulating COVID-19 variant. They can help restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination and were designed to provide broader protection against newer variants,” Walensky said in a news release. “This recommendation followed a comprehensive scientific evaluation and robust scientific discussion. If you are eligible, there is no bad time to get your COVID-19 booster, and I strongly encourage you to receive it.”
Pharmacies will also remain an option for people.
“We expect our pharmacies to begin to receive supply on a rolling basis over the next few days and appointments will be made available at CVS.com and via the CVS Pharmacy app,” CVS said. “We continue to provide our communities with convenient access to vaccines at CVS Pharmacy including the approved COVID-19 primary series, as well as flu and a number of other vaccinations, such as pneumonia and shingles.”
The COVID-19 Pfizer and Moderna updated boosters will also be available at select Walgreens locations, Walgreen said.
Following CDC approval, people may schedule those appointments through the Walgreens app, at Walgreens.com/ScheduleVaccine or by calling 1-800-Walgreens.