A new COVID-19 vaccine will be available in Oregon hospitals, pharmacies and clinics in the coming weeks.
The vaccine was approved this week by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Oregon Health Authority recommends it for anyone at least 6 months old who has gone more than two months without getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
Dr. Paul Cieslak, the medical director for communicable diseases and immunizations at OHA, said kids between 6 months and 5 years old may need the primary series of two or three shots, because it’s likely they have not been otherwise exposed to the virus.
“But everybody older than about 5, we figure they’ve probably seen the virus already and they just need to be boosted against the more recent strain,” he said.
Because COVID-19 cases are on the rise nationwide, Ceislak says people should get these vaccines as soon as possible. They’re based on, and targeted toward, the XBB.1.5 omicron subvariant. There are more recent subvariants circulating now, but the vaccine should also defend against those.
“Almost all of the circulating strains, over 90%, are closely related to that strain,” Cieslak explained. “So there are little variations that you’ll hear about here and there. But it turns out that they’re all very, very closely related. And we think that any XBB vaccine is gonna give you good protection against virtually everything that’s out there right now.
He said it’s not yet clear exactly when the vaccines will be available in the state. But Oregonians can begin scheduling appointments now by visiting vaccines.gov.
The new COVID-19 vaccine will be provided free for almost anyone with health insurance coverage. People who don’t have health insurance, or have plans that don’t cover the cost, can find local pharmacies participating in the CDC’s Bridge Access Program.
Cieslak said a rise in COVID-19 cases will again coincide with flu season this year, but it’s too early to tell if annual COVID shots will become the norm.
“The disease has only been with us for a few years right now,” he said. “I, for one, am withholding judgment as to whether it will truly be a seasonal disease or not.”
He also clarified that while people should get their COVID shots as soon as they become available, that’s not necessarily the case for flu shots.
“COVID-19 is going up now, but flu hasn’t really hit yet,” Cielslak said. “And in order to protect you throughout the flu season, the people at highest risk are advised to get their flu shot in October, and not before.”