PHILADELPHIA—Last night, the U.S. CDC issued a recommendation that everyone in the United States aged six months and older get vaccinated with the newly approved updated COVID-19 vaccine. In response to this recommendation, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health issued the following statement:

“Let me be blunt: everyone should get the updated COVID vaccine this fall, especially those over the age of 65,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole. “We’ve had COVID vaccines for almost three years now, and they have saved countless lives in Philadelphia. Being up-to-date on your COVID vaccine is the best way to ensure that a case of COVID doesn’t turn into a severe case, a trip to the hospital, or even death. This is especially true for those at high risk, including people who are older than 65, people who have chronic health conditions, smokers, and those who are overweight or obese. I strongly recommend that Philadelphians at high risk get their updated COVID vaccine as soon as possible.”

On Monday, the U.S. FDA approved a new formulation of the COVID-19 vaccine. This vaccine is different from the boosters that were previously available, as it is formulated against the omicron variant called XBB.1.5. Studies show that the new vaccine will offer good protection against the mix of variants that are currently circulating in Philadelphia and nationally. Yesterday, the CDC reviewed information on the vaccine and recommended that everyone over the age of 6 months should get this updated vaccine.

The vaccine will be available soon wherever you usually get your vaccines. This is part of a process to make the COVID vaccine an annual vaccine, like the flu shot. Currently, most people get their annual flu shot at a pharmacy, at their doctor or pediatrician’s office, or at a clinic. The new COVID vaccine should be available in all of those places.

Most major insurers, including Medicaid and Medicare, are covering the new COVID vaccine, which means you can get it for free. The Health Department and federal government are working to ensure that people who are uninsured or underinsured can get the vaccine for free through a program called the Bridge Access Program. The federal government has partnered with CVS and Walgreens in this program, and the Health Department is working to enroll local independent pharmacies and federally qualified health centers as well.

National experts recommend that, in order to make it as easy as possible, people consider getting both their flu shot and COVID vaccine at the same time. This has been found to be safe and effective.

For the latest information on COVID-19 in Philadelphia, please visit the City’s COVID website.