Free COVID-19 Tests and Updated Vaccines as Cold Season Approaches
Free COVID-19 Tests for American Households
American households can once again order up to four free COVID-19 rapid tests to be delivered to their doorstep. After a pause in the program last May, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will resume orders on its website starting September 25.
Extended Expiration Dates for At-Home Tests
Federal officials have announced that expired at-home tests should not be thrown out just yet. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has extended the expiration dates of several at-home tests, making them still effective for months to a year longer than originally dated.
Increased Testing Availability as COVID-19 Cases Rise
With 35 Texans dying of COVID-19 last week and over 1,500 Texans hospitalized with the virus, increased coronavirus testing availability is crucial. Nationally, hospitalizations and deaths associated with COVID-19 are also trending upward, As seen in the coverage by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s data tracker.
Updated Vaccines to Combat Omicron-Based Strains
Recently updated Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are now available and are expected to better combat the circulating strains, which are all Omicron-based. The CDC recommends that anyone 6 months or older get an updated COVID-19 shot as the fall and winter months begin.
As seen in the coverage by Chris Van Deusen, Texas Department of State Health Services spokesman, getting the updated COVID-19 vaccine is similar to getting the flu shot. Viruses mutate over time, and the new version of the vaccine is more closely matched to the particular strain of COVID-19 that has been circulating in recent months.
For individuals five years old and older who have been previously vaccinated, only one dose of the new vaccine is required. However, people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised may need multiple doses depending on their condition. In the case of a recent coronavirus infection, the CDC recommends delaying vaccination by three months.
Children between six months and four years old who haven’t been previously vaccinated will need two to three doses, depending on the vaccine they receive. Children under five who have been vaccinated in the past may still require more than one dose.
Most health insurance plans cover the cost of the updated COVID-19 vaccine.