Gov. Hochul Announces New COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters Designed to Strengthen Defenses Against Omicron Subvariants

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Governor Kathy Hochul announced the availability of bivalent COVID-19 vaccine boosters, which are designed to add Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants and bolster previous vaccination protection. The announcement follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendation to use updated COVID-19 boosters from Pfizer-BioNTech for anyone age 12 or older and from Moderna for those 18 or older. Governor Hochul made the announcement shortly before getting her booster shot at the Boriken Neighborhood Health Center in East Harlem today. To schedule an appointment for the updated COVID-19 booster, New Yorkers should contact their regular health care provider, local pharmacy, or local county health department. New Yorkers can also visit, text their ZIP code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233 to find nearby locations.

"As we continue to contend with the effects of this pandemic on all our lives, we need to ensure we're using every tool available to us," Governor Hochul said. "Throughout the pandemic, New Yorkers have been smart, looked out for one another, and taken steps to protect themselves and their neighbors. Getting vaccinated and boosted remains our best shot at protecting ourselves and fellow New Yorkers, and I encourage everyone eligible to sign up and get the updated bivalent COVID-19 booster."

In addition, Governor Hochul announced that masking will now be optional in multiple settings where they were previously required, including on public transportation, in for-hire vehicles, at airports, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, and detention centers. Masks will continue to be required at adult care and health care facilities regulated by the state Department of Health, and in clinical settings regulated by the Office of Mental Health, Office of Addiction Services and Supports, and Office for People With Developmental Disabilities.

Providers in New York were able to pre-order these new boosters until August 30, with shipping of pre-ordered doses beginning late last week and already arriving at some locations. To be eligible to receive the updated bivalent COVID-19 booster, individuals must have completed their original vaccine series or received a booster at least two months before.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said, "The novel coronavirus has changed over time, with many new variants, including Omicron. These bivalent boosters for the first time are tailored to a circulating variant. I encourage all eligible New Yorkers to take advantage of this advance and contact their health provider, visit the local pharmacy, or call their county health department to get this booster as soon as possible."

In the coming days, the state Department of Health will be issuing updated clinical guidance on the administration of bivalent booster doses to all providers enrolled in the New York State vaccination program. Providers that pre-ordered and received the COVID-19 bivalent booster doses are now authorized to begin administering them in accordance with the Federal Food and Drug Administration's emergency use authorization for these boosters and the updated CDC recommendations.

Providers should also note that monovalent mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are no longer authorized for use as boosters for people ages 12 years or older, according to the updated federal guidance. Scheduled appointments to administer monovalent Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna boosters to people 12 years of age or older must be rescheduled for when locations have the bivalent COVID-19 vaccines available.

In the weeks ahead, the CDC also indicated that it expects to recommend updated COVID-19 boosters for younger pediatric groups, as well. Until then, the monovalent mRNA Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine remains authorized for use as boosters in children ages 5 through 11 and for all primary series vaccinations.

The state Department of Health continues to share CDC's recommendation that all eligible adults, adolescents, and children five years and older get fully vaccinated and receive the COVID-19 booster when eligible.