Omicron-specific COVID-19 vaccine booster shots are now available in Oregon for anyone ages 12 and up. Health officials believe the updated boosters will be a critical tool to mitigate an anticipated surge of infections in fall and winter. 

“With fall and winter approaching with circulation of COVID-19 anticipated to increase, when most of us will spend more time indoors, the availability of safe and effective vaccine boosters offers us strong protection against the worst outcomes of COVID-19, including severe illness, hospitalizations and death,” said state epidemiologist Dean Sidelinger in a press release. 

COVID cases in Oregon are currently declining, with an average of 492 daily reported cases during the last two weeks of August. However, COVID forecasts from the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and Oregon Health and Science University predict cases will start to creep back up in late September and continue to rise through the end of the year. 

Following the initial release of COVID vaccines in late 2020, the first round of booster shots were made available for people 16 and older in late 2021, followed by approval for boosters for kids older than 5 and a second booster recommended for people 50 and older earlier this year.

The new updated boosters, called “bivalent boosters,” are intended to specifically protect against the current omicron variant—which accounts for over 90 percent of current COVID cases in Oregon—and new potential variants this fall. The existing vaccines and boosters are still effective at reducing severe illness and death from COVID, but are not as effective at protecting against the highly contagious omicron variant, according to OHA. 

The updated booster shots are single doses that can be administered at least two months after completing the initial vaccine series or most recent booster shot. Both Pfizer and Moderna have updated vaccines, however the Pfizer shot is available for people 12 and older while the Moderna booster is approved for people 18 and older. Oregon officials ordered over 75,000 doses of the new vaccines that started arriving late last week with more on the way. 

For Portlanders looking for an updated booster shot, health officials recommend contacting your doctor, seeking out a vaccine clinic, or making an appointment with a pharmacy.

The earliest opportunity to get a booster shot is likely at OHA’s vaccine clinic at the Tektronix campus in Beaverton. The walk-up clinic is offering the new booster shots starting Wednesday, September 7. The clinic is open Wednesdays through Saturdays from noon to 7 pm and Sundays from 11 am to 4 pm. 

A complete list of vaccine clinics in the Portland region can be found on Multnomah County’s website or OHA’s vaccine finder.

Major pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS are also currently offering vaccine appointments with most appointment availability starting around mid-September.

As of August 29, 77 percent of Oregonians 18 and older have completed their initial vaccine series and 47.9 percent have received a booster shot—comparable to national vaccination averages. Approximately 62 percent of children ages 12 to 17 in Oregon have completed their initial vaccine series and 27.5 percent have received a booster shot.