Another option for COVID-19 vaccinations approved

Plus advice on finding a shot in Georgia and getting a free test

U.S. regulators on Tuesday authorized another option for fall COVID-19 vaccination: updated shots made by Novavax.

Updated vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna began rolling out last month, intended for adults and children as young as age 6 months. Now the Food and Drug Administration has added the reformulated Novavax shots, which can be taken by anyone 12 and older.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention already has urged most Americans to get a fall COVID vaccination, shots tweaked to protect against the latest coronavirus strain. Novavax said shots will be available “in the coming days.”

Novavax’s vaccine relies on technology similar to seasonal flu vaccines and routine childhood immunizations such as whooping cough and meningitis. Novavax makes a protein-based vaccine mixed with an immune-boosting chemical, a different technology than the mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna.

Some experts say people who were hesitant to take the Moderna or Pfizer shots might be willing to accept the more conventional Novavax vaccine.

Following a summer increase in infections, Georgia has seen the number of COVID hospitalizations dropping in recent weeks, but cases are predicted to rise again in the fall and winter. Public health agencies are urging people to take one of the updated COVID vaccines along with their flu shot.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now including Noavax’s shots in its recommendations for updated COVID vaccines. The CDC has recommended all Americans six months old and over get the vaccine.

“Novavax’s authorization today means people will now have the choice of a protein-based non-mRNA option to help protect themselves against COVID-19, which is now the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.,” John C. Jacobs, president and chief executive officer of Novavax said in a statement. “In the coming days, individuals in the U.S. can go to pharmacies, physicians’ offices, clinics and various government entities to receive an updated Novavax vaccine.”

Rollout for the updated vaccine began in September, but has so far been dogged by problems with slow distribution and confusion over payment. Many have reported they are unable to locate available doses for either adults or children., the main resource provided to direct people to a nearby vaccine, is missing pediatricians and other locations where the vaccine is available and sometimes indicates a vaccine is available at a site when it is not.

Anyone covered by private health insurance should be able to access free COVID vaccines through their insurance company’s in-network providers, according to Jennifer Tolbert, KFF director for State Health Reform.

If an individual goes to an out-of-network provider, whether a pharmacy or a doctor, they could be asked to pay for their shot — a bill that could amount to $200 or more. Anyone unsure which providers are in-network should call their insurance company before going.

For people without insurance, the Georgia Department of Public Health will provide the vaccine for free through state and local health departments and community health centers. The Biden administration set up the Bridge Access Program, which will make free vaccines available this fall through community health centers and pharmacies.

Spokespersons for Walgreens and CVS pharmacies said all of their pharmacies will participate in the Bridge Access Program

Meanwhile, local health departments will continue to provide the vaccine for free for the uninsured. People with insurance can also get vaccines at a local health department.

Georgia DPH is planning to offer shots to both adults and children at health departments throughout the state, but it’s facing delays also. Last week, the department reported vaccines were starting to arrive at several health departments including Fulton, Gwinnett, Clayton and Athens-Clarke counties, but they are in limited supply. For now, DPH recommends people call their local health department to make an appointment and to make sure shots are available.

Find your county health department office here.

Find your closest Federally Qualified Health Center at

Need to take a COVID test?

The Georgia Department of Public Health is still providing free COVID tests at locations throughout the state listed here. But hours are limited.

Beginning this week the government has resumed mailing free COVID home tests. The Department of Health and Human Services says orders for the free tests can be placed at now.

Home test kits have expiration dates stamped on the box, and many of the free tests distributed earlier in the pandemic have now expired. However, some of those expiration dates have been extended. You can check your test kit’s current expiration date here.

Staff writer Helena Oliviero and the Associated Press contributed to this report