New York State will receive Omicron-specific COVID boosters this week

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Healthcare providers in New York State are expecting deliveries starting Wednesday for the new booster that’s updated to fight against the Omicron COVID variant.

Gov. Kathy Hochul said that the state is receiving the Omicron-specific Pfizer and Moderna shots this week.

The rollout comes after the Centers for Disease Control approved the new shots targeting the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration was the first to approve the new boosters, on August 31. Medical experts hope the new boosters and prevent a fall and winter surge.

Dr. Emil Lesho, an infectious disease specialist at Rochester Regional Health, said getting boosted decreases the chance that people become hospitalized after getting COVID.

“The majority still in the ICU, even though there’s only three or four, you know two or three of them are not vaccinated or are not fully vaccinated,” Lesho said. “So, it’s important to become up to date on all of your shots.”

Until now, COVID-19 vaccines have targeted the original coronavirus strain, even as wildly different mutants emerged. The new U.S. boosters are combination, or “bivalent,” shots. They contain half that original vaccine recipe and half protection against the newest omicron versions, BA.4 and BA.5, that are considered the most contagious yet.

The combination aims to increase cross-protection against multiple variants.

“It really provides the broadest opportunity for protection,” Pfizer vaccine chief Annaliesa Anderson told The Associated Press.

The updated boosters are only for people who have already had their primary vaccinations, using the original vaccines. Doses made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech are for anyone 12 and older while Moderna’s updated shots are for adults — if it has been at least two months since their last primary vaccination or their latest booster. They’re not to be used for initial vaccinations.