Tuesday, October 18, 2022

COVID-19 booster recommendation expanded to younger age groups in time for fall gatherings


Austin-Travis County Health Authority: New subvariants overseas warrant getting boosted 

Being up to date with COVID-19 vaccines means getting updated booster doses for much of the population. Austin Public Health (APH) supports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) updated booster recommendations for everyone 5 and older at least two months after their most recent COVID-19 vaccine. Updated (bivalent) boosters offer broader protection against newer COVID-19 variants.  

While children 5 and older became eligible for COVID-19 vaccines almost a year ago, about half of Travis County’s 5-to 11-year-olds are not yet eligible for COVID-19 booster doses because they have not completed their primary vaccination series. About 40% of children 5-11 have completed their primary series in Travis County. 

"Another wave of infections has begun in Europe and will likely reach the U.S. in the next few weeks.  We can get ahead of this by getting the bivalent booster," said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority. "The updated boosters can protect against serious illness caused by newer variants including BA.5 sublineages BQ.1 and BQ.1.1. We need more people—especially children—to complete their primary series to better safeguard our community."

The World Health Organization is tracking more than 300 omicron sublineages, mostly of BA.5 or BA.2. As the virus continues to change, it is necessary to adjust recommendations accordingly. Updated (bivalent) boosters are available at pharmacies and private providers throughout the area. Austin Public Health’s (APH) Mobile Vaccination Program (MVP) has been administering them at pop-up clinics, and now even more people in Austin-Travis County are eligible for enhanced protection.  

COVID-19 booster dose eligibility highlights include:

  • All children 5 and older can get Pfizer’s updated booster, and children 6 and older can get Pfizer or Moderna’s updated booster. 

  • Children who got Moderna's primary vaccination series are now eligible for booster doses. Previously, only children 12 and older whose primary series was Moderna were eligible for boosters. 

"Cold and flu season is off to an early start in our area," said Adrienne Sturrup, APH director. "I encourage everyone to find time to get up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines and flu shots so we can avoid missing work or school or worse—hospitalization. We have tools to keep our families healthy, so let’s not take them for granted.” 


Early reports show flu activity is already extremely high in Travis County. Everyone 6 months and older is eligible for flu and COVID-19 vaccines, and they can be given at the same time. APH offers both at Shots for Tots/Big Shots and most pop-up clinics. The MVP team worked with community partners to host more than two dozen clinics last month to reach historically underserved communities. 

Vaccine Providers

Visit Vaccines.gov (Vacunas.gov in Spanish) to find flu and COVID-19 vaccine providers near you.   

Free COVID-19 tests

Free at-home test kits and PCR testing are available at APH’s Metz Elementary testing site (84 Robert T. Martinez Jr. St., Austin, TX 78702) through the end of the month. The Department of Health and Humans Services lists community-based testing sites online. Epidemiologists monitor various disease surveillance indicators in addition to positive lab-confirmed results and wastewater surveillance. You may report COVID-19 at-home test results to APH online. 

Free masks (N-95 respirators)

Use the CDC’s mask-locator tool to find pharmacies near you that provide free masks (N-95 respirators). It does not show current inventories, so check with the location for availability.