Fall 2023 COVID-19 FAQ

In preparation for the fall and winter seasons, here are a few questions you may be asking yourself about COVID-19. If you have further questions, please reach out to the clinic staff for more information.   

Is there an updated version of the COVID vaccine? Should I get it?

  • Yes! The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved an updated COVID-19 vaccine that replaced previous versions of the vaccine. 
  • This updated vaccine targets a recent strain of the Omicron variant and is offered by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. Studies show that the updated vaccine is effective against the variants currently causing the majority of COVID-19 cases in the U.S.
  • The CDC recommends the updated vaccine for everyone 6 months or older.

How is the updated COVID vaccine different from the previous one? 

  • The most recent booster was bivalent, which means that it targeted two strains of COVID-19 (Omicron subvariants and the original SARS-CoV-2 virus). 
  • The new vaccine is monovalent, which means that it is designed to prevent severe disease from a single variant (the newest Omicron subvariant). Unlike the original monovalent vaccine, the new vaccine specifically targets the Omicron strain.
  • Today, most circulating strains of COVID-19 are descended from or closely related to the newest subvariant.  

Should I get the updated COVID vaccine and other seasonal shots at the same time? 

  • The CDC considers it safe to get the COVID-19 shot and annual flu vaccine simultaneously, although you are more likely to experience side effects like headache and fatigue. 
  • The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine is for adults 60 or older and pregnant women. If you are thinking about getting the RSV vaccine with other vaccinations, contact your health provider for more information. 

Do I have to pay for the vaccine? 

  • The federal government is no longer covering the cost of the vaccines, but most people with Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance will not have to pay.
  • The CDC’s Bridge Access Program will temporarily provide free vaccines and no-cost testing to adults who either do not have health insurance or whose health insurance does not cover the cost of the vaccine until December 2024. Uninsured children also have access through the Vaccines for Children Program.
  • The Vaccines.gov’s website contains a search tool that locates COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites that are covered under the Bridge Access Program. After inputting your vaccine and geographic preferences, you can filter nearby locations by their participation in the Bridge Access program.  

Can I mix and match vaccines? 

  • It’s safe and effective to receive an updated Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least two months after your last dose — no matter which brand you’ve received in the past.

I am starting to feel sick. Do I have COVID, RSV, or the flu? 

  • It’s difficult to know! A unique symptom of RSV is wheezing, but other symptoms, such as a runny nose and fever, are common to the flu, COVID-19, and a cold. You cannot tell the difference between flu, RSV, and COVID-19 by your symptoms alone, as they may present the same signs and symptoms.
  • If you think you may have COVID-19, RSV, or the flu, take an at-home COVID-19 test or get tested by a local health provider. Your health provider will provide a diagnosis and treatment plan to help get you back on your feet! 

Are my old at-home tests still effective? 

  • You can check the expiration date column of the List of Authorized At-Home OTC COVID-19 Diagnostic Tests to see if the printed expiration date on your at-home COVID-19 test is still valid or has been extended to a new date.  
  • These changes are based on manufacturers testing their kits for accuracy beyond their printed expirations dates and sharing the results with the FDA. 

Where can I order new at-home COVID test kits? 

  • Four free tests are available for each household to request through this website: COVIDTests.gov portal. If you have trouble ordering online, you can also call 1-800-232-0233 or 1-888-720-7489 for TTY.

What medicine(s) should I take if I test positive? 

  • Most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and can recover at home. You can treat symptoms with over-the-counter medicines, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) as deemed safe by your healthcare provider.
  • If you have mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms, you may be eligible for antiviral treatments. These treatments include Paxlovid and Lagevrio (molnupiravir), which are oral pills, and Veklury (remdisivir), which requires an IV fusion. Talk with your healthcare provider to see if these treatments are right for you. 

How long do I isolate if I test positive? 

  • If you are immunocompromised or have a weakened immune system (e.g. those on immunosuppressive therapy): your guidelines may look different than those outlined below. Contact your healthcare provider for specific information.
  • If you had no symptoms: you may end isolation after day 5.
  • If you had symptoms and your symptoms are improving: you may end isolation after day 5 if you are fever-free for 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication).
  • If you had symptoms and your symptoms are not improving: continue to isolate until you are fever-free for 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication) and your symptoms are improving. 
  • If you had symptoms and had moderate illness (you experienced shortness of breath or had difficulty breathing): you need to isolate through day 10.
  • If you had symptoms and had severe illness (you were hospitalized): you need to isolate through day 10 and consult your doctor before ending isolation. Ending isolation without a viral test may not be an option for you. Contact your health provider for more information on best isolation practices. 

This FAQ was written for free and charitable clinics by Sostento Inc., a US-based 501c3 federally recognized nonprofit organization. Please note that the guidance in this document does not substitute for the recommendations of your healthcare provider.

TWITTER: @sostento  |  Website: www.sostento.org

This FAQ was published on November 6 2023.

Sources for this FAQ:

Food and Drug Administration COVID.gov Yale Medicine

Center for Disease Control Cleveland Clinic HHS

Vaccines.gov NBC News ASPR