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COVID-19 booster vaccine could be available as early as this week in Arkansas

The new COVID-19 booster was approved and has begun shipping to pharmacy shelves around the nation. However, this shot has key differences from previous vaccines.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — At Medical Arts Pharmacy in Fayetteville, the new COVID-19 booster vaccine is scheduled to arrive on the shelves by Monday, Sept. 18.

The rollout began on Sept. 13 and will continue to be released until November, before they are set to be widely available to everyone.

In the previous booster, there were two components to boost immunity against the original strain of the virus while simultaneously attacking the Omicron variant… The new booster is designed to target the XBB variants.

The XBB variant came from the original Omicron variant and is expected to be the most common form this season.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says the immunity boost is expected to happen within two weeks of getting the shot, reducing your risk of getting COVID for a few months, and significantly reducing the risk of experiencing severe symptoms for up to a year.

 "Whether you're getting your first dose, second dose, fifth dose, six doses, whichever, that will be the only one that will be available," says Julie Stewart, a pharmacist at Medical Arts.

This updated vaccine will also have a wider age eligibility to receive the shot. 

Anyone 12 and older can take the Pfizer, Moderna, or Novavax vaccine. While children 6 months old and older can get one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna. 

Lastly, the government will no longer be supplying vaccine supplies since the COVID-19 pandemic is no longer labeled a national emergency.

Stewart adds, "We are paying a lot of money per dose for this. There is a cost associated with it, but we do expect the insurance companies to cover it. So even though we may have it next Monday, or Tuesday, we're not sure if the insurance companies are gonna be ready to have it coded in their systems to be able to pay for it."

Most insurance plans will cover all out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 vaccines. Uninsured and underinsured people will be able to get free vaccines through a CDC program that distributes vaccines to health providers.

The CDC Bridge Access Program is only temporary and will not be available after December 2024. 

Manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna were both approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC and will start hitting pharmacy shelves in certain areas this week. 

The president of Novavax says they are expected to be approved and deliver their product by the end of September.

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