What side effects can you expect from the newest COVID-19 vaccine? We asked experts

With the weather turning chilly and flu season approaching fast, it’s an ideal time to get a flu shot.

But while you’re at the pharmacy, clinic, or health department there’s another vaccine available to you that will help fight off illness this winter: the newest COVID-19 vaccine.

Specially formulated to help protect against recently circulating strains of the Omicron variant, this vaccine is available now around the metro — and experts say you can get it at the same time as your flu shot.

Here are a few quick facts about the new COVID-19 vaccine in Kansas City.

What are the side effects of the new booster shot?

According to the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, the side effects of the updated COVID-19 vaccine are similar to those patients experienced with past shots and boosters.

Here are a few of the most common side effects, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Pain, swelling or redness on the arm where the shot was given

  • Tiredness

  • Headache

  • Chills

  • Nausea

  • Fever

These symptoms are generally mild and fade within a day or two. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help reduce them.

Getting some rest, drinking plenty of fluids and continuing to move and use the arm where you got the shot are also recommended to counteract these side effects.

Where are the new vaccines available in Kansas City?

The new COVID-19 vaccines are now available throughout the metro at county health departments, pharmacies and other medical facilities. The shot is free through most insurance plans and Medicare.

If you don’t have insurance or your insurance doesn’t cover the entire cost of the vaccine, you may still be able to get it for free through the federal government’s Bridge Access Program. Simply ask your vaccine provider about this program when you schedule your shot.

To find a vaccine near you, enter your ZIP code on Vaccines.gov, a nationwide database of vaccine providers.

Is this a “booster” or a new vaccine entirely?

Experts are now referring to new COVID-19 shots as new vaccines rather than boosters. That’s because the medical community expects to see newly updated shots every year, similar to the way flu shots work now.

“Calling it an updated COVID vaccine also reflects that we’re not just boosting existing immunity from previous vaccination; rather, the vaccine builds a new immune response to variants that are currently circulating,” wrote Aliza Rosen for Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health.

However, if you see someone calling it a “booster,” know that it’s all the same shot.

Do you have more questions about staying safe from COVID-19 in Kansas City? Ask the Service Journalism team at kcq@kcstar.com.