Updated COVID-19 vaccines available in Michigan next week

By Lee DeVito, Michigan Advance

An updated vaccine formulated to protect against new variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 will be available starting next week, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) said Thursday.

The news comes as COVID cases have ticked upwards in the U.S. in recent weeks, and days after the Food and Drug Administration authorized the new vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. MDHHS recommends the vaccination for everyone 6 months and older, regardless if they were previously vaccinated.

They are tailored to protect against the XBB.1.5 subvariant of the virus, which has been found to be the most transmissible variant yet and has been nicknamed “the Kraken” after the mythical sea beast. Despite the scary name, COVID infections appear to be becoming less severe over time.

Still, COVID hospitalizations and deaths are rising, though the numbers are relatively low. Officials hope that COVID will become something like the flu, and are encouraging people to get vaccinated for COVID annually the way many people get flu shots in the fall and winter.

“Updated COVID-19 vaccines are going to be the way we protect ourselves and our loved ones each fall and winter virus season,” MDHHS chief medical executive Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian said in a statement. “It is important to make sure our families are up-to-date on all routine vaccines to prevent the spread of severe illness and disease. Now is a great time to check with your health care provider to make sure you are up-to-date on all your vaccines.”

Most Michigan residents can still get a COVID-19 vaccine for free, and residents who don’t have health insurance or health plans that cover the cost of COVID-19 vaccinations can reach out to a health care provider or local pharmacy participating in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Bridge Access Program, their local health department, or see vaccines.gov for additional information. There is also a Vaccines for Children program for eligible youth.