😷 New boosters are said to provide good protection against current variants

😷 There's concern that not enough NJ residents will follow vaccine recommendations

😷 The updated vaccines may be available as soon as this month

As soon as later this month, you may be getting the push by New Jersey health officials to once again roll up your sleeve for additional protection against COVID-19.

And this could become a yearly occurrence.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday gave the green light to Moderna and Pfizer boosters for ages 6 months and up. They include a component that targets a highly transmissible omicron variant (BB.1.5) that was running rampant earlier this year.

"The updated vaccines are expected to provide good protection against COVID-19 from the currently circulating variants," the FDA says on its website.

But the promise of protection may not be enough for New Jerseyans to make an appointment and get a shot.

"I think that, with time, people have become increasingly comfortable living in a world where COVID permeates, without thinking that they need a vaccine," said Perry Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health.

Over the past year, omicron-specific doses that were launched last September only reached 20% of adults in the U.S.

"Annually, 50 to 60% of people get their flu vaccine," Halkitis said. "If we could even get somewhere close to that number, that would be really great."

Current variants of COVID-19

The most prevalent variant of COVID-19 right now is known as E6. And it's "spreading like wildfire," Halkitis said. It's worse for individuals with underlying health conditions, but is also sickening healthy individuals.

"What's circulating now is not BB.1.5, but offshoots of it," Halkitis said. "While this booster doesn't address the most popular circulating variant right now, and another one that's developing ... those variants are close enough to the BB.1.5. that the booster will work on them also."

The CDC was scheduled to meet on Tuesday to discuss clinical recommendations on who should receive the vaccine.

According to Halkitis, older and immunocompromised individuals will obviously be the priority. But even healthy individuals in New Jersey should get the shot, he said — to lessen the odds of the most vulnerable residents getting infected.

When will the new COVID-19 vaccines be available?

With its approval announcement on Monday, the FDA said that it anticipates that the composition of COVID-19 vaccines may need to be updated annually, similar to the process with the seasonal flu vaccine.

Manufacturers of the new vaccines have said publicly that they would be ready this fall. Experts expect doses to on hand at doctor's offices and pharmacies by the end of September, perhaps as soon as a week from now.

Halkitis said residents can book appointments to receive both their influenza and COVID vaccines at the same time, once locations have doses on hand.

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