Updated COVID-19 vaccines now available

·2 min read

Sep. 13—Updated COVID-19 booster vaccines that protect against current variants of the virus are now available at health departments in Whitfield and Murray counties. Some Dalton pharmacies said Monday they are also administering the booster.

The Georgia Department of Public Health said the new "bivalent vaccine contains the genetic recipes for two versions of COVID-19; the original strain, plus the omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, offering better protection against the currently circulating COVID-19 variants."

The Federal Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have approved two updated boosters. The Moderna booster has been approved for those 18 and older, and the Pfizer booster has been approved for those 12 and older.

"These will replace current boosters for these age groups," said the North Georgia Health District in a press release. "Residents may get an updated booster two months after completing the primary series, or two months after receiving a previous booster dose. Current booster vaccines will remain available for children ages 5-11 years."

The Georgia Department of Public Health said at this time "the bivalent vaccine is considered only a booster. It is not to be used as the initial two-dose COVID vaccine."

The original COVID-19 vaccines will still be administered for the primary series of vaccine and as a booster for children under the age of 12. Since both vaccines are available, those who wish to get the new booster should specify that when they go to get the vaccine.

The boosters are available at no cost to individuals. But their health insurance may be billed.

No appointment is needed to get the booster at local health departments during regular clinic hours. You can go to www.nghd.org for each county health department's location and hours of operation.

"Maintaining both flu and COVID-19 vaccinations is the best way for individuals and families to be protected this winter as the holiday season approaches," the health district said. "This will also help protect the local community's hospital capacity ahead of a possible winter surge."

Georgia is currently seeing an average of 3,000 cases of COVID-19 reported a week, according to the Department of Public Health. More than 89% of newly-reported COVID-19 cases are caused by the BA.5 variant.