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New COVID Vaccines get FDA approval, MDH to provide free, low-cost options

A new round of COVID vaccines have been approved by the Federal Drug Administration, just as Minnesota is seeing a spike of new COVID cases stemming from variants of the disease.

The updated vaccines, manufactured by Moderna and Pfizer, contain a single component to improve their efficacy with the XBB.1.5 COVID-19 variant.

The variant has been found to be able to spread more broadly, and has a higher chance of infecting those previously infected or vaccinated. XBB.1.5 also has mutated to become more prone to clinging to cells, increasing its transmission rate.

Symptoms of XBB.1.5 are similar to those of other Omicron variants, including cold-like symptoms, coughing, sore throats, and headaches. However, as seen with other Omicron variants, the loss of taste and smell has become less and less common. According to the American Medical Association’s Director of Science, Medicine and Public Health Dr. Andrea Garcia, while the variant is able to infect faster than other variants, there hasn’t been any indication that the symptoms will be more severe.

“The experts generally believe that the symptoms of COVID have become less severe over time,” Garcia explained. “That could be because they tend to remain in the upper respiratory tract and don't affect the lungs as much as earlier variants.”

Anyone over the age of five can get the vaccine, whether they were previously vaccinated or not. Because this round of shots could cost up to $130 for people without assistance or insurance, the Minnesota Department of Health urged people to seek some of the low-cost options provided. Those include:

  • Contact the nearest Community Health Center (CHC) near you. Find locations at Minnesota Health Centers: Find a Health Center.

  • Call the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) COVID-19 public hotline at 1-833-431-2053 Monday, Wednesday, Friday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Tuesday, Thursday: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. to locate a community vaccination event near you.

  • Visit to find other locations offering COVID-19 vaccines at no cost to the uninsured, including pharmacies.

  • Most clinics that provide medical services to children in Minnesota participate in the Minnesota Vaccines for Children (MnVFC) program. Simply ask your clinic about getting free or low-cost vaccines for your child.

    • If your child does not have insurance or has insurance that does not cover vaccines, we recommend using the MDH Vaccination Clinic Web Map to find clinics that offer low-cost shots.

The MDH urges people to get the booster if it has been more than two months since their last shot. As a precaution, they also urge those with pre-existing conditions to seek the new shots sooner rather than later.

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