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September 7, 2022

Updated COVID-19 Boosters: What Employers Need to Know

Stephen Massey

For the first time since the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines, people in the United States are now able to get an updated booster shot specially formulated to strengthen immunity against the original coronavirus strain and also protect against the newer Omicron variants that account for most of the current cases. As new variants of the virus emerge, updated boosters are intended to provide optimal protection against COVID-19 and address waning vaccine effectiveness over time.

The new booster comes just in time for a possible fall or winter surge — and gives employers a new tool to help improve the health and safety of their people and workplace.

About the New Booster

  • An updated COVID-19 booster shot is now available in the United States. It has been specially designed to strengthen immunity against the original coronavirus strain and protect against the newer Omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5, which are the dominant strains currently circulating. These highly contagious strains have been infecting and re-infecting people with COVID-19. 
  • The updated booster improves your body’s ability to prevent infection and, especially, to prevent serious illness.

Who Can Get the New Booster?

  • As of September 1, 2022, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends that all people ages 12 and over receive the updated COVID-19 booster shot.
  • Before now, only people ages 50 and over (and some immunocompromised people) were eligible for a second booster. Now, all people ages 12 and over are recommended for the new booster, which may be their second. The new booster can be a third one for people ages 50 and over.
  • There are two versions of the new booster available: one from Pfizer-BioNTech, which is available to people ages 12 and older, and one from Moderna, available to people 18 and older. Eligible individuals can get either the Pfizer or Moderna updated booster, regardless of whether their primary series or most recent dose was with Pfizer, Moderna, Novavax, or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

When Should You Get the New Booster?

  • People who already received a booster shot are recommended to get the updated booster as long as it has been at least 60 days since their last one. 
  • If you have not received a booster, the new one can — and should — be your first.
  • People who have recently been infected with COVID-19 should wait 90 days from the time they were infected before getting a vaccine (if they are unvaccinated) or a booster.
  • The new booster is now available across the country. Use Vaccines.gov to find local booster distribution sites and to schedule appointments. Many of the major retail pharmacy chains – including Walgreens and CVS – also offer online appointment scheduling for boosters, and multiple states — including Massachusetts, New Jersey and Colorado — have websites to help you find other clinics with new boosters in stock.

The New Booster Was Made Using a Proven Process.

  • The process for creating the updated COVID-19 booster was similar to the one medical experts use each year to update the flu vaccine.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended the new booster after a robust scientific evaluation to ensure that it is as safe as the main vaccine, which has now been received by 262 million Americans.

COVID-19 Is Still a Serious Threat — But the New Booster Provides Protection.

  • Currently, between 1.8 million and 4.1 million Americans are unable to work due to long COVID. Nearly 1 in 5 of all people who’ve had COVID-19 are still experiencing symptoms of long COVID. The updated booster improves your ability to avoid infection from COVID-19, which is the best way to avoid long COVID. 
  • Having an updated booster available now, instead of mid-November, could save between 7,500 and 18,000 lives by this spring, according to an estimate by leading epidemiologists. 

Answers to Tough Questions

Visit PHCC’s Answers to Tough Questions for full messaging guidance to help you answer questions in your workplace, such as:

  • Should I get an updated COVID-19 booster if I’ve previously gotten a booster?

  • What if I recently had COVID-19?

  • Can I get the updated COVID-19 booster if I haven’t been vaccinated yet?

  • What’s the status for booster doses for children under 12?

  • Can I mix and match my COVID-19 vaccine and booster?

BOOSTER CHECKLIST FOR EMPLOYERS

Here are five things every employer should consider to strengthen uptake of the new COVID-19 boosters.

  1. Share facts about the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 boosters. Use our key messages to craft your employee communications.
  2. Provide paid time off for employees to get their boosters and recover from any possible side effects. Consider offering paid time off to working parents to take their eligible children for booster appointments too. 
  3. Encourage employees to use Vaccines.gov to find local booster distribution sites and to schedule appointments. Many of the major retail pharmacy chains – including Walgreens and CVS – also offer online appointment scheduling for boosters, and multiple states — including Massachusetts, New Jersey and Colorado — have websites to help you find other clinics with new boosters in stock.
  4. Engage your employee resource groups (ERGs) to share the latest information about boosters, answer their questions and address any unique access challenges their members may face. Remember, it’s important to make it as easy as possible for your workers to get questions answered and access boosters.
  5. Reach out to your local public health department to learn more about hosting a booster clinic at your worksite. This makes it easiest for your employees and their families to access the new COVID-19 boosters.