Román-Hernández said her organization offers additional incentives to encourage people to get vaccinated, such as food or gift cards.
“We’ve seen increased interest when we bring incentives to the table,” Román-Hernández said. “There are other issues for our community, like lack of transportation or language barriers and access to food. (Providing incentives) has been more successful than just having vaccination events.”
A work in progress
On September 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended updated COVID boosters of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for ages 12 and older, and updated boosters of the Moderna vaccine for ages 18 and older.
“This is the first breakthrough in vaccines since we started using them in December 2020,” said Jodie Guest, an epidemiologist at Emory University’s school of public health.
“It’s our goal and hopefully we won’t be doing reinforcements on a regular basis, every four months,” Guest said. “This new bivalent vaccine is our first step toward what we hoped would be a once-a-year COVID-19 vaccine that you can get at the same time as your flu shot.”
However, according to Guest, interest in protection against COVID-19 has waned.
“There have been a lot of communication issues,” Guest said. It makes me sad that we haven’t done a better job of getting this vaccine to everyone.”
Questions and answers about the new COVID-19 booster vaccinations
Q: If someone received the primary series of their COVID-19 vaccine and a booster, can they get a bivalent booster?
Jodie Guest, an epidemiologist at the Emory University School of Public Health: Yes. But I will give you some caveats for this. They should wait two to four months after their most recent dose of the COVID-19 vaccine before receiving this new bivalent booster.
Q: What if someone has had the two primary doses of vaccine, plus booster doses, but then gets COVID?
To: If they have had COVID-19 in the past four months, they would actually have to wait up to three months before getting this new bivalent booster.
There is new data that leads us to believe that if you have 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 I get a bivalent COVID-19 booster and a flu shot at the same time?
To: You can get them absolutely at the same time. (However, if you want the shots to be done on two different arms, I would suggest separating them) if you don’t want both arms to be sore at the same time. (I’d rather do both shots in one arm), because I’d rather hurt one arm.
Q: If you get your first round of COVID vaccines now, will it be a bivalent vaccine or the original vaccine?
To: If you haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19 yet, get the original series, which is still available. This is because this is the baseline we want your immune system to start working on. Then, four months later, you can get this bivalent (booster) vaccine.
Q: What is the recommended spacing between Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines and boosters?
To: (After receiving the primary doses of the vaccine) you wait four months for the bivalent booster.
Q: What side effects should people expect from bivalent enhancers? Are they different from the original vaccines?
To: We’re (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 a headache are the most common.
Q: Have you received a booster of the bivalent COVID-19 vaccine?
Q: How was the experience for you?
To: It was fine. I actually had less symptoms than I did (during my first series). I had extreme side effects during my first round of 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 you can get or go to your next COVID-19 booster www.vaccines.gov.