February is a month when we celebrate love in all of its meanings. I want to show some love by offering our enormous thanks and gratitude to all health care workers in hospitals, nursing homes, those providing in-home care, and staffing COVID testing sites. Many of us have adapted to changes brought on in COVID times; however, those working in health care settings have provided consistent care and support every day throughout this pandemic. We send our sincere appreciation to every worker for the care, compassion, and energy they keep giving to the community. In return, let’s keep the love and good wishes going to everyone in our health care communities — remember all the thank you signs with hearts from 2020 and 2021? They are still very much in style in 2022!
One key way we can show love and appreciation to our hardworking health care workers is by boosting vaccination rates, which will lower hospitalizations and the burden on our health care system. Our area of the state has not reached the levels of vaccination achieved in other parts of Massachusetts. January saw high rates of infection and hospitalizations. However, the good news is that in 2022, we are fortunate to have many tools in our kit to combat COVID. Vaccination and booster shots lead the way along with testing and masks. We are starting to see some signs of encouraging news of decreasing COVID positivity as we enter February. That said, we must continue to be vigilant and use the tools we have in order for 2022 to be a more “normal” year. As of the middle of January, about 71% of people ages 60-74 and 75% of persons over age 75 were boosted in MA. As we continue to manage our lives with COVID, it is very important to keep one another as safe and protected as possible by keeping up to date with vaccinations and boosters.
Here are some quick facts about the COVID booster:
Do I need a booster?
COVID-19 vaccines are very effective in lowering the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death. The CDC has found that this protection may wear off over time. Boosters keep the vaccines effective for longer.
Is the booster free?
Yes, the booster is free. You do not need to pay, have an ID, or have health insurance to get a booster.
Can I mix and match my booster dose?
Yes. CDC recommendations allow for mixing and matching of different COVID-19 booster doses, and eligible individuals may choose which vaccine they receive as a booster dose. The Administration recommends that residents with questions about which booster is right for them should ask their health care provider for advice.
When should I get my booster shot?
You are eligible to get your booster shot five months after the second dose in a two-shot series (i.e., for the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines), or two months after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
What if I don’t know when I received my last COVID-19 vaccine shot?
To learn when you are eligible for a booster dose, you should consult your CDC vaccination record card for the date of your second COVID-19 vaccination. If you do not have your vaccination card learn how to obtain your vaccination record by visiting mass.gov/myvaxrecord, contacting your primary care provider or the pharmacy where the vaccination was received.
Should people expect to get sick after the third dose?
Current data indicates that side effects following the additional dose are similar to those after the second dose. Common side effects are generally mild such as localized pain, redness or swelling at the injection site, fatigue, headache, and low-grade fever. Serious adverse events are rare.
Can I get a flu vaccination at the same time as my COVID-19 booster?
Yes. You can get a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccinations like a flu or shingles vaccine at the same time or close together, according to the CDC.
Is there anything I can do along with getting a vaccination?
Another way to be able to visit with the ones we love and care about, is to test before gathering and when any symptoms appear.
Order Four At-Home COVID-19 Tests – Every home in the U.S. can now order 4 free at-home COVID-19 tests. Visit covidtests.gov for more information and to order.
Insurance Reimbursement for At-Home Tests – As of January 15th, most people with a health plan can go online, or to a pharmacy or store to purchase an at-home over-the-counter COVID-19 diagnostic test authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at no cost, either through reimbursement or free of charge through their insurance. Insurance companies are required to reimburse you at a rate of up to $12 per individual test (or the cost of the test, if less than $12). Click here for additional information.
Roseann Martoccia, MPA