Cases are rising, but new COVID vaccines are available to offer protection.

 ( Mufid Majnun / Unsplash)

A recent uptick in COVID cases is a reminder that the coronavirus is still circulating and mutating with new subvariants. Getting vaccinated is your best defense against getting sick this fall and winter.

On Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved new monovalent COVID-19 vaccines, developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. The new vaccines, formulated to more closely target currently circulating variants and provide better protection against serious consequences of COVID-19, will arrive at pharmacies this week.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone six months and older get an updated COVID-19 vaccine. According to the CDC, it is safe to to get both the COVID vaccine and a flu shot at the same time.

Essex County will receive an allotment of the new monovalent vaccines by the end of September, and the town of Montclair will prioritize administering to homebound residents, said Amy Monaco, Montclair’s health officer. The state-funded 317 Program covers the cost for uninsured or underinsured residents who want to get vaccinated.

When planning to get the new monovalent vaccine, Monaco said it doesn’t hurt to switch to a different brand. For example, those who received a Pfizer booster shot can receive a Moderna monovalent vaccine for a possible “better immune response,” Monaco said. 

Though vaccine production happens in advance of the dominant variants circulating, Monaco said the booster will still provide immunity from the new variants. According to the FDA, recent studies have shown the updated vaccines to be effective against currently circulating viral variants including EG.5 and BA.2.86.

“That’s the hope, that at least it’s priming your immune system, even if it’s not an exact match,” Monaco said.

According to hospitalization tracking in New Jersey, cases recently have risen about 20%, said Monaco.  If you do test positive for COVID, the guidelines remain the same.

“Right now, the recommendation is the same as it has been. If you test positive, there needs to be five days of isolation. And if you’re feeling well, and you’re fever-free for at least 24 hours, you go back to work or school but wear a mask for the next five days,” Monaco said. 

Monaco recommends residents wear masks in crowded areas and keep fresh air circulating by opening windows in office spaces. Most importantly, Monaco wants residents to know the town’s health department is a resource for any health-related questions or concerns they may have. 

“Feel free to reach out to us and we’re happy to help, or at least direct people to the right resource if we don’t have it here.”

Reach Montclair’s Health and Human Services by calling 973-509-4970.

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