The Chicago Journal

New COVID Vaccine Rollout at Walgreens and CVS: Access, Eligibility, and Benefits

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In a recent development, Walgreens and CVS have taken significant steps to make the newly updated COVID vaccine readily available to the public. This move comes following approval from Federal officials earlier this week. This article delves into the details of this rollout, including how to schedule appointments, eligibility criteria, and the unique features of this booster shot.

Walgreens’ Initiative:

Walgreens, a well-known pharmacy chain, has already begun scheduling appointments for the new COVID vaccine. Appointments can be conveniently made via the company’s scheduling tool or by calling 1-800-WALGREENS. As inventory arrives in stores, earlier appointments may become available.

CVS’s Vaccination Campaign:

CVS, another prominent pharmacy, has also jumped into action, announcing that the updated vaccine is now available at its pharmacy locations. Shipments are expected to be delivered on a rolling basis throughout the week, ensuring that all locations have the new vaccine in stock by early next week. Appointments can be made at and through the pharmacy chain’s app. Walk-ins will also be accepted at various locations as they receive doses.

Vaccine Eligibility:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that individuals aged 6 months or older receive an updated booster shot against COVID-19. Notably, individuals under the age of 6 and those with weakened immune systems may require multiple booster shots, but this should be done after consultation with a physician. The FDA’s recommendations align with the CDC’s guidance.

Targeting Specific COVID Strains:

What sets this booster shot apart is its monovalent formulation, specifically designed to target descendants of the XBB.1.5 COVID variant. This variant, which traces its roots to omicron, has given rise to multiple subvariants, including EG.5 and FL.1.5.1. The FDA and CDC are confident that the new vaccine will effectively combat these strains, which now constitute over 90% of the circulating COVID viruses.

Cost and Accessibility:

With the end of the federal national emergency for COVID, the cost of the shots will no longer be covered by the government. However, Pfizer and Moderna have committed to pricing vaccine doses at more than $100. The good news is that most Americans covered by private insurance or Medicare will still receive the shots for free. For the uninsured, the CDC is working diligently to provide temporary access to free shots through health departments, clinics, and pharmacies.

Who Should Get the Booster:

Experts recommend that individuals who haven’t received a booster since the last fall, and those who haven’t recently contracted COVID, should get the new booster shots promptly. Unvaccinated individuals can also receive the booster without completing the multi-dose primary series beforehand, following the new FDA guidance. Those who have recently had COVID may wait approximately 90 days for maximum effectiveness of the new booster.

Possible Side Effects:

The side effects of the booster shots remain consistent with previous versions of the vaccine. These may include headache, chills, fever, nausea, and pain or swelling at the injection site.

Dominant Variants of the Virus:

Currently, several omicron-offshoots are in circulation. EG.5 is the most prevalent, accounting for an estimated 21.5% of COVID infections in the U.S., closely followed by FL.1.5.1. Various XBB variants are also gaining ground in recent weeks.