COVID Omicron Boosters Now Available in NJ. Here’s Who is Eligible and Where to Get Them

by Spencer Kent | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

This story is being republished under a special NJ News Commons content-sharing agreement. Link to story: nj.com/coronavirus/2022/09/covid-omicron-boosters-now-available-in-nj-heres-who-is-eligible-and-where-to-get-them.html

New COVID-19 boosters, which are redesigned to protect against the Omicron variant, are now available in New Jersey.

But the question looms: Will residents get the updated shots as fall and winter approach and coronavirus cases typically rise?

Experts hope so, because the Omicron booster could help blunt the impact of another surge, they say.

“I don’t want to go into this fall-winter without a booster,” said Dr. David Cennimo, an infectious disease expert at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

The new boosters are available at chain pharmacies such as CVS and Rite Aid, independently owned pharmacies, participating Stop & Shop supermarkets and many medical centers. You can search for vaccination providers near you at

vaccines.gov/search/?zipcode=07675&medicationGuids=25e72c3c-8f6c-4738-9638-08911a400e70%2C018b22d2-054b-4d42-8279-d4efb511aec6&appointments=true&medicationKeys=moderna_covid_19_vaccine_bivalent_booster%2Cpfizer_covid_19_vaccine_bivalent_booster

covid19.nj.gov/pages/finder

Most adults are eligible, provided they have completed their initial COVID-19 vaccination series.

The boosters are known as bivalent shots, meaning they have been updated to combat two strains: the original novel coronavirus and the highly contagious Omicron variant (and all of its subvariants).

This is the advantage of the mRNA shots: The ability to take the vaccine, tweak it and roll it back out in a short time frame with updated protection.

“If we think back to a couple years ago when we first started talking about mRNA technology, this is what was promised—the ability to rapidly address a new variant and change and tweak the vaccine in near real-time,” Cennimo said.

The BA.5 lineage of the Omicron variant is overwhelmingly the most prevalent strain in New Jersey and the U.S., according to the latest update from the state. BA.4 subvariants are the second most common.

“It means that this booster will give you more protection that is Omicron-specific,” said Stephanie Silvera, an infectious disease expert and professor at Montclair State University.

Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna each updated their shots. Pfizer’s booster is authorized for people 12 and up, and Moderna’s shot is authorized for those 18 and older. Eligible recipients must wait at least two months after their last COVID-19 shot—whether it was their initial vaccination series or a booster.

But experts say the public’s pandemic guard has never been lower despite the anticipated spike in cases once the colder weather hits.

Who should get the updated shot? Nearly everyone, but especially those at high risk.

“You don’t have to have had a previous booster in order to be eligible for this one,” Silvera said. “You just have to have completed your original sequence and be fully vaccinated, whether that was the J&J (Johnson & Johnson) one shot or the Pfizer, Moderna two-shot regimen.”

“Like any previous shot, you want to make sure that those who are considered at highest risk for severe outcome get vaccinated,” she added. “So if you are somebody who is over the age of 50. If you are somebody who has a preexisting medical condition or risk factor. If you’re immunocompromised.”

Silvera also recommends caregivers and close relatives of those who are at high risk consider receiving the booster.

As people head back indoors with the weather turning colder, we’re all at some risk of catching the coronavirus, experts say.

When should you get the shot? As soon as possible, according to experts.

“I would urge people, if you are eligible now, go ahead and get it,” Silvera said.

Experts are confident in the new booster. They recommend everyone—regardless of health status—get it, as COVID-19 cases likely will increase in the coming months.

But even with the ease of the shot, there is concern about turnout.

Cennimo couldn’t predict what this fall and winter might look like. And, as always, he worries about flu and other viruses circulating alongside COVID-19.

“I’m not really more hopeful because I think that people are done” worrying about the pandemic, he said. “I mean, there’s less precaution now than I think there’s been since this started. There’s less impetus to really maintain those precautions. I don’t see it happening.

“So I think that we will see a lot more infections. My hope, though, is that they will be mild.”