Updated COVID-19 boosters make their way to Joplin area

·3 min read

Sep. 9—Ready for another jab in the arm?

Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week approved updated COVID-19 booster shots, which have been specifically tailored to combat the omicron subvariants now dominant in the Joplin area and most of the country.

The new booster shots — one from Moderna and one from Pfizer — are the first updated boosters. Two previous booster doses used the same mRNA technology found in the original vaccine. The newest booster — the third produced since the pandemic hit American shores in early 2020 — is bivalent, meaning it targets both the original COVID-19 strain and omicron's BA.5 subvariant, which accounts for 89% of all current U.S. infections.

CDC officials have approved Moderna's updated shot for people 18 and older, while Pfizer's updated booster has been OK'd for people 12 and older. To be eligible, people must have completed the primary vaccination series of two shots, and be at least two months out from the last dose of any COVID-19 vaccine, according to the CDC. Officials also recommend that people who have recently had COVID-19 should wait three months after testing negative before getting the updated booster.

Joplin resident Michael Gregory, who enforced a strict in-house quarantine during the early months of the pandemic two years ago, said he looks forward to receiving the new booster in late October or early November.

Gregory, a former schoolteacher and retired director of the Heartland Opera Theatre, received both his second booster and flu shot at the same time last year. He'll likely do something similar every year for the rest of his life.

"I think the boosters will continue to be more effective as time passes and scientists have more data to use in their development," he said. "I feel scientists everywhere did a remarkable job developing the original vaccine in such a short time. The more we know, the better the result."

A few hundred people continue to die from mutated versions of the original coronavirus each day in the U.S., according to the CDC. The new boosters, the federal agency says, should make a sizable dent in those numbers in the latter half of 2022 and into early 2023.

"The boosters are crucial to maintaining the general health of the world's population," said Gregory, who lost a sister and several friends from complications due to COVID-19 in 2020, before the vaccines became available nationwide. "We can't let our guard down."

Where to get a booster

According to the CDC, 48.5% of eligible Americans have received their first booster shot, and 34% of those eligible have received their second.

"I would encourage (the booster) if you have underlying health conditions," said Larry Bergner, director of the Newton County Health Department. "It's something you should talk to your physician about, to see what they recommend is best for you."

The new boosters, as with all COVID-19 shots so far, are free. Walgreens and CVS began offering them late last week; check walgreens.com or cvs.com for details or to schedule an appointment.

The Jasper County Health Department announced Tuesday on social media that it has received the new boosters and is scheduling appointments.

The Joplin Health Department said Wednesday that it has ordered the new boosters but has yet to receive them. For individuals seeking the primary COVID-19 vaccine, shots will be available by appointment on Tuesday at the department, 321 E. Fourth St.

"COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and free," Joplin Health Department officials said this week on social media.

Freeman Health System and Mercy Hospital Joplin currently have no plans to administer booster shots via a drive-thru clinic, officials with both hospitals said Tuesday.