Arwady on new COVID shot: Get boosted ASAP

“We very much are going to want people to get this updated vaccine right now and not wait three or four months,” she said.

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Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

Chicago will be ready to administer newly updated booster shots within days of final federal approval, which is expected this week. 

Dr. Allison Arwady, the city’s chief medical officer, said Thursday morning that she expects final federal approval either Thursday or Friday, with booster shots going into arms around Chicago as early as Tuesday.

“This is a big deal,” Arwady said, noting the importance of getting ahead of winter COVID surges that provide opportunities for the virus to mutate in unpredictable ways.

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Anyone over 12 who has completed their initial round of COVID-19 vaccine shots will be eligible for the booster shot. One other requirement: Anyone receiving the new booster must wait at least two months after their last shot, regardless of whether it was an original vaccination shot or a previous booster.

The new single-shot booster is specifically tailored to protect against the two Omicron variants — BA.4 and BA.5 — that make up more than 99.7% of COVID cases in Chicago and the rest of the country. 

Arwady urged anyone eligible to get the booster as soon as possible.

“We very much are going to want people to get this updated vaccine right now and not wait three or four months,” she said.

“The match couldn’t be better,” she said of protecting against the two dominant strains. “Getting boosted has significant improvement for protecting against hospitalization and especially death ... hopefully it will help against breakthrough infections as well.”

Arwady, who is recovering from a recent case of COVID-19, said she wished she could have gotten the new booster before going on a recent vacation, where she caught the virus. 

She believes her chances of having contracted the virus “would have been quite a bit lower.”

The Chicago Department of Public Health website will guide people to pharmacies and other locations where they will be able to get the jab.

The Food and Drug Administration gave emergency use authorization for the new booster on Wednesday. The last hurdle is approval by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The boosters will be manufactured by two companies — one produced by Moderna will be available to people 18 and older and one produced by Pfizer-BioNTech will be available to people 12 and older.

Arwady deferred to federal guidance expected to be released in the coming days when asked whether pregnant people or those who recently had the virus should get the new booster.

Chicago has been allocated about 150,000 doses from the federal government to be shipped in the first week the shot becomes available with more following quickly as needed. 

About 46% of the shots are expected to go to about 90 retail pharmacies in the city. The majority of the remaining shots will be distributed to other sites around Chicago, including hospitals.

Arwady cautioned that COVID-19 is still affecting Chicagoans, with one in 20 hospital beds in the city containing a coronavirus patient.

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