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Legislative Update on New Covid Booster Shots

Submitted by State Sen. Norm Needleman

(September 15, 2023) — The following is a legislative update from the office of State Senator Norm Needleman (D)-Essex.

New COVID Boosters ApprovedThe Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Protection have approved new Covid-19 booster doses from Pfizer and Moderna, designed to target a prominent variant of the Omicron variant of Covid. The shorts are targeting XBB.1.5, a subvariant that caused infections last year and this year, and they are also expected to be effective against offshoots of that variant.

Anyone ages six months and older can get an updated booster regardless of previous vaccination, unless they have received a booster within the past two months. A third updated booster dose by Novavax is currently under review. Early testing said that the new shot works against the currently circulating EG.5 and FL.1.5.1 variants of Covid-19 and strong results were shown against the BA.2.86 variant of Covid-19, which has concerned scientists as well.

Anyone who has been infected recently is asked to wait about three months after recovery before getting boosted. Insured patients will be able to receive the booster at no cost, though people without insurance may need to utilize community health centers or utilize a “bridge” program for free access; after three years of no-cost access through pandemic-era programs, uninsured patients may now need to pay for vaccine doses. New boosters may be widely available for the public soon.

VA Program Seeking Veterans In Need Of Custom Adaptations, DevicesThe Veterans Administration’s Quality of Life, or QL+, program is seeking veterans with disabilities who would benefit from having custom specialized devices built for them to enhance their lives, through both active lifestyle enhancements and everyday needs. The program has helped those with disabilities to improve their abilities to return to everyday activities, ranging from hiking prosthetics to wheelchair tire cleaners and kayak and bike lifts. Any veteran is eligible to apply for no cost. The program partners with engineering college students who take on projects as part of their education. To learn more and fill out an online application, visit www.qlplus.org.

Red Cross Faces Severe Blood ShortageThe American Red Cross is reporting a severe blood shortage and is seeking donations from anyone able to help out. Since August, the national blood supply has dropped nearly 25%, potentially threatening the medical care of patients with emergency need for blood, or those with critical conditions who depend on blood transfusions. Worsening climate disasters have strained the blood supply, leading to blood drives being cancelled and blood and platelet donations being reduced in impacted areas. Donors of all types are urgently needed and there is an emergency need for platelet donors and type-O blood donors to ensure critical care can continue. Please visit www.redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS for a local blood drive or donation center.

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