New Yorkers 50 and older eligible for second COVID booster. Here's where, when to get it

·5 min read

New Yorkers ages 50 and older are eligible for a second COVID-19 vaccine booster shot at least four months after their first booster, state officials said.

The rollout of a second booster dose comes as the omicron BA.2 subvariant fueled rising infections in New York and authorities warned of renewed pandemic risks, especially for older people and those with underlying health conditions.

The booster doses are free and widely available statewide, including at all state-run mass vaccination sites and many medical offices and pharmacies.

A second booster dose improves protection against severe COVID-19 and is not associated with new safety concerns, the Food and Drug Administration said last week in granting Emergency Use Authorization for the fourth shot of either mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna.

Cynthia Mercado teaches sixth grade at El Dorado school in the East Ramapo school district. She received a COVID booster from pharmacist Rupal Dar of TruCare Pharmacy  during a Dec. 7, 2021 vaccine clinic at Kakiat school in Spring Valley.
Cynthia Mercado teaches sixth grade at El Dorado school in the East Ramapo school district. She received a COVID booster from pharmacist Rupal Dar of TruCare Pharmacy during a Dec. 7, 2021 vaccine clinic at Kakiat school in Spring Valley.

Further, New Yorkers ages 18 to 49 who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for their primary vaccine and initial booster dose now may receive a second booster of Pfizer-BioNtech or Moderna four months after their first booster dose.

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Also eligible for the second booster are New Yorkers 12 years and older who are moderately to severely immunocompromised, state officials said.

“For each of us, vaccination remains our personal best line of defense against COVID,” Health Commissioner Mary Bassett said in a statement.

A 62-year-old nursing home resident receives a COVID-19 booster shot in New York on Monday, Sept. 27, 2021.
A 62-year-old nursing home resident receives a COVID-19 booster shot in New York on Monday, Sept. 27, 2021.

Why New York approved a second COVID booster?

State and federal officials approved the second booster as some studies suggested it would help combat fading immunity after the third shot.

The FDA cited an ongoing study among Israeli health care workers, 154 of whom received a fourth shot with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 120 who were boosted a second time with Moderna.

Two weeks later, both groups saw at least a 10-fold increase in levels of antibodies capable of fighting off COVID-19, while antibody levels continued to fall among those who didn't receive an additional booster. No new safety concerns were raised in either group.

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Other studies, some not officially peer-reviewed and published, show vaccine effectiveness declines three to six months after the initial booster, and a second booster can improve protection against severe disease.

But even as New York began its push for distributing a second booster, the state has struggled to convince some people to get the initial booster, with about 55% of eligible New Yorkers choosing to get the third shot.

That reluctance has unfolded despite federal analysis that found the initial booster dose performed well during the winter surge ignited by early versions of omicron.

During that wave, people who were boosted were 21 times less likely to die from COVID-19 compared to those who were unvaccinated, and seven times less likely to be hospitalized, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data cited by state officials.

"Getting vaccinated and staying up-to-date with all recommended doses is the most effective way to prevent severe illness and hospitalization, and move safely forward through this pandemic," Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement.

A sign outside a hospital advertises the COVID-19 vaccine Nov. 19, 2021, in New York City.
A sign outside a hospital advertises the COVID-19 vaccine Nov. 19, 2021, in New York City.

Where and when to get second COVID booster shot?

The list of 13 state-run vaccination sites includes locations in Monroe, Broome, Rockland and Westchester counties, as well as other several others across the state.

People can call 1-800-232-0233 to find vaccine locations or visit vaccines.gov online to search sites by ZIP code.

Some experts suggested people should make personal decisions about getting a second booster dose based on a range of factors, including age, health and local COVID rates.

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For example, some Central New York communities were recently placed in the CDC’s “high risk” category based on COVID case and hospitalization rates, prompting state officials to renew calls for wearing masks indoors in five counties.

In contrast, many other counties in New York remained at “low risk” despite upticks in COVID cases in recent weeks.

Megan Ranney, an emergency physician at Rhode Island Hospital and a public health expert at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University, said if she were in her 50s or 60s and healthy, she'd wait to get another shot.

The pandemic is at a low point in much of the United States, so there's relatively little risk of infection. She'd rather get a booster closer to the time of an outbreak, when it would be more likely to protect against infection.

"I would not be rushing out to get a booster today," she said. "If you get it too early, that's not going to help, either."

Meanwhile, University of Rochester Medical Center researchers are leading a new national COVID vaccine study that will evaluate a second booster dose.

The study will include the current approved vaccine and new doses that target the beta, delta, and omicron variants, the university said.

The goal of the study is to determine which individual or combination variant vaccine provides the broadest protection during potentially future outbreaks, including the fall when the combination of waning immunity, a return to school, and congregating indoors often spark the reemergence of respiratory viruses.

The study is currently recruiting participants ages 18 and older online at covidresearch.urmc.edu or through calling 585 273-3990.

“For the past two years, we have been playing catch-up with the virus as new variants emerge,” said Dr. Angela Branche, an associate professor of infectious diseases and co-director of the URMC Vaccine Treatment and Evaluation Unit.

“COVID will continue to evolve over time, potentially leading to new variants that cause periods of higher incidence of symptomatic disease,” she added. “The goal of this study is to move from responsiveness to preparedness.”

Karen Weintraub of USA TODAY contributed to this report.

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David Robinson is the state health care reporter for the USA TODAY Network New York. He can be reached at drobinson@gannett.com and followed on Twitter: @DrobinsonLoHud

This article originally appeared on New York State Team: Where, when to get second COVID-19 booster in New York? What to know