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The first COVID-19 boosters were made when coronavirus first swept across the globe. It was formulated to fight the Alpha variant. But just as the common flu virus changes each year, the COVID virus changes, too – fast. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks the changes with a database. Including Alpha, there have been 13 variants so far.
Omicron, the most recent variant is more infections, causes more severe symptoms and spreads more easily. Because protection from the vaccine drops over time, booster shots have been used to offer added protection. Unfortunately, they weren’t very helpful against Omicron. The updated COVID-19 boosters now include Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 spike protein components. “The updated COVID-19 boosters are formulated to better protect against the most recently circulating COVID-19 variant. They can help restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination and were designed to provide broader protection against newer variants. This recommendation followed a comprehensive scientific evaluation and robust scientific discussion,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director (CDC) Rochelle P. Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., explains in a media statement from the CDC.
The vaccine may be updated again in the future. Viruses mutate. It’s part of evolution. It’s the way they survive and spread. New variants may need a different version of the vaccine, so stay up-to-date on news about coronavirus.
Safety is a top priority. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses a set of standards to measure the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. The COVID-19 vaccines are approved by the FDA. Talk with your doctor to see if it’s right for you.
You can get the vaccine at many places. COVID-19 shots are offered in many local health clinics, neighborhood pharmacies, and even some grocery stores. Ask your doctor or community health center if they provide vaccines. The CDC website – vaccines.gov – can point you to a provider. You can also text your ZIP code to 438829 or call 1-800-232-0233.
You may need more than one shot. Some of the COVID-19 vaccines call for two or more doses for the most protection. The safest plan is to get all of your vaccines in the series from the same provider. Once you get your first dose, ask about when you should get your follow-up doses.
With a BCBSMT health plan, you can receive the COVID-19 vaccine at no cost to you. Talk with your health care provider about when you can get yours and any other questions you have about the vaccines.
Some self-funded groups may not waive the cost for the COVID-19 vaccine and its administration. If you aren’t sure what your plan covers, contact your company’s benefits administrator or call BCBSMT Customer Service at the number listed on your member ID card.
Members with pharmacy benefits through a BCBSMT employer health plan, individual plan and Medicare Advantage plan will be able to get the vaccines with no out-of-pocket cost at any provider or pharmacy during the public health emergency. Some grandfathered health plans may not cover preventive care like vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine. Check your plan benefits if you aren’t sure or call Customer Service at the number on your BCBSMT member ID card for help.
If you have pharmacy benefits administered by a pharmacy benefit manager other than Prime Therapeutics®, please call them for your pharmacy-related COVID-19 questions – including vaccine coverage.
If you don’t have insurance, there are programs that can help. Your doctor or a local pharmacy can tell you what your choices are.
Like the flu and other communicable diseases, you lower the chance of spreading it to other people if you get a vaccine. Some people who are COVID-19 positive don’t show symptoms or may have different symptoms than the most common ones. Getting vaccinated offers the widest protection to the greatest number of people.
For other resources and information about COVID-19, visit our COVID-19 website.
The CDC and FDA have more information about the COVID-19 vaccine.
Originally published 1/26/2021; Revised 2022
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