Román-Hernández said her organization offers additional incentives to encourage people to get vaccinated, such as food or gift cards.
“We’ve seen interest increase when we put incentives on the table,” said Román-Hernández. “There are other problems for our community, such as lack of transportation or language barriers and access to food. (Giving incentives) has been more successful than just vaccination events.”
A work in progress
On Sept. 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended updated COVID boosters from the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children 12 years and older, and updated boosters from the Moderna vaccine for children 18 years and older.
“This is the first advance in vaccines since we started using them in December 2020,” said Jodie Guest, an epidemiologist at Emory University School of Public Health.
“It’s our goal and we hope we don’t do boosters regularly, every four months,” Guest said. “This new bivalent vaccine is our first step in what we hoped could be a once-a-year COVID-19 vaccine that you can get along with your flu vaccine.”
However, according to Guest, interest in COVID-19 protection has declined.
“There’s been a lot of miscommunication,” Guest said. It saddens me that we haven’t done a better job of getting this vaccine to everyone.”
Q&A about the new COVID-19 booster shots
Q: If someone has received the primary series of their COVID-19 vaccine and a booster, can they get a bivalent booster?
Jodie Guest, epidemiologist at Emory University School of Public Health: Yes. But I’m going to give you a few caveats on that. They would have to wait anywhere from two to four months after their most recent dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before getting this new bivalent booster.
Q: What if someone had the two primary vaccine doses plus boosters, but then got COVID?
A: If they’ve had COVID-19 in the past four months, they’ll probably have to wait up to three months before getting this new bivalent booster.
New data is coming out that leads us to believe that if you’ve recently had a COVID-19 infection, you won’t get the full effect of this new bivalent vaccine until your immune system has calmed down from having COVID-19. Your COVID-19 infection still offers you some protection.
Q: Can you get a bivalent COVID-19 booster and a flu vaccine at the same time?
A: You can absolutely get them at the same time. (If you want to get the pictures in two different arms though, I recommend spacing them) if you don’t want both arms hurting at the same time. (I prefer to get both shots in one arm) because I prefer only one arm to hurt.
Q: If you get your first batch of COVID vaccines now, will this be a bivalent vaccine or the original?
A: If you haven’t had a COVID-19 vaccine yet, you’ll get the original series, which is still available. This is because that is the baseline we want your immune system to work on. Then you can receive this bivalent (booster) vaccine four months later.
Q: What is the recommended distance between Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines and boosters?
A: (After you have had your primary vaccine doses) wait four months to administer the bivalent booster.
Q: What side effects should people expect from the bivalent boosters? Are they different from those of the original vaccines?
A: We are (still) collecting the data, but our first swipe shows us that there are similar side effects. A sore arm, some fatigue for a day or two and headaches are the most common.
Q: Have you been given a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine booster?
Q: How was the experience for you?
A: It was amazing. In fact, I had fewer symptoms of it than (during my first series). I had extreme side effects on my first round of the vaccine but not with my boosters so I have (experienced) both.
You can use the CDC’s Online Tool to find out when and where to get your next COVID-19 booster or go to www.vaccines.gov.