No, you can’t get the omicron booster if you’ve never been vaccinated. Here’s why

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A shipment of the new bivalent omicron booster arrived in Mecklenburg County last Tuesday, according to county officials.

Dr. Raynard Washington, Mecklenburg County Public health director said at a press conference that the doses would immediately be distributed to partners across the county in preparation for the administration of the “bivalent” booster, which is reported to be the most effective formula against omicron BA.4/BA.5 infections.

Some in the Charlotte area are now asking whether they can receive the updated vaccine if they have never been previously vaccinated.

Here are a few answers to some commonly asked inquiries about the booster dose.

Can you get the new booster without having completed a COVID-19 primary vaccination series?

Washington last week that only those who are 12 years or older and have received the primary series of the COVID-19 vaccine (two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or one dose of Johnson & Johnson) are eligible to receive the updated booster.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, anyone 6 months through 4 years old can receive the COVID-19 primary series doses. Those 5 years and older can receive their primary series doses in addition to the booster dose recommended for them by CDC, if eligible.

Currently, the CDC says people aged 5 years to 11 years should receive the original booster, while those who are 12 years or older can receive one updated Pfizer or Moderna bivalent booster.

The reason for this is because the monovalent vaccine is only effective against the original SARS-CoV-2 strain, not the omicron BA.4/BA.5 strain, the Centers for Disease Control stated.

People are eligible to receive an updated booster two months after their last vaccination regardless of whether it was their primary or booster dose, according to Atrium Health.

The newer Novavax vaccine is available as a primary dose series for unvaccinated people only. The first and second doses in the primary series must both be Novavax vaccines and the doses cannot be mixed, according to the American Medical Association.

Novavax has not yet developed a booster.

Where and when can Charlotteans get the COVID-19 booster?

Appointments at Atrium Health will open up on Sept. 14 after shipments of the bivalent boosters finally arrive at their facilities. However, national chain pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens have already opened appointment slots for the updated shots, The Charlotte Observer reported last week.

You can contact Atrium Health regarding booster appointments by visiting their online vaccination site or by using the MyAtriumHealth portal.

Those seeking appointments for booster administration can also book a slot with StarMed, one of the county’s vaccine administration partners.

The Charlotte Mecklenburg Health Department is currently accepting appointments. Residents can also find out where to get vaccinated online through the CDC’s vaccine finder website tab at www.vaccines.gov.

When are people considered fully vaccinated?

According to the CDC, you are considered “up to date” on your COVID-19 vaccinations if you have completed the first two doses of your primary vaccine series and received the most recent vaccine that you are eligible for.

For Pfizer recipients who are 18 years or older, you can receive a second dose to complete your primary series anytime from three to eight weeks after your first shot. Your third shot, or booster dose, can be administered at least two months after your primary series is completed.

If you’ve already received the monovalent booster, you can receive the bivalent booster after two months from the date of administration have passed. The bivalent booster can be Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.

For recipients of the Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine, it is recommended by the CDC that two months pass after the administration of a primary series or an outdated booster before receiving either vaccine.