If you don’t feel like you’ve had enough COVID-19 vaccine shots already, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the State of North Carolina are recommending that you get another shot – a fifth one for those who’ve all the four previously recommended shots.

The new booster is specifically designed to protect against the latest COVID-19 variants.

There have been some availability problems in the state in recent weeks for those who’ve wanted the shot, but now the new vaccine appears to be widely available – largely because a lot of people are forgoing the advice to get immunized once again due to the public perception that the threat of the disease is no longer prevalent.

According to a Thursday, Oct. 13 press release from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), even children age 5 and up can now receive the updated COVID-19 booster.

The press release states that the latest booster is available in North Carolina due to the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization along with the CDC’s recommendation.

NCDHHS Secretary Kody Kinsley said this week that children should be vaccinated just as adults should.

“Kids 5 and older can now get the most up-to-date protection from COVID-19 from an updated booster to help renew their body’s defenses against the latest variants of the virus this fall and winter,” Kinsley stated. “Children are vulnerable to COVID-19 and long-term complications just like everyone else. Staying up to date on vaccines and boosters is the best way to protect against severe illness, hospitalization and death from the virus.”

The new booster is referred to as a “bivalent” vaccine – which means that it targets both the original coronavirus strain and the newer Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants.

As of mid-September, these variants constituted about 80 percent of COVID-19 cases in North Carolina. According to state health officials, everyone 5 years of age and older should get the updated COVID-19 booster two months after they finish their primary series or any booster dose.

Health officials say that it’s safe to get the new COVID-19 vaccine at the same time you get your annual flu vaccine.

The new COVID-19 vaccines, like the previous ones, are free to everyone, regardless of insurance or immigration status.

For more information about COVID-19 vaccines, boosters, testing and treatment – or to find locations to arrange a COVID-19 or flu vaccine shot – you can visit MySpot.nc.gov or call the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Help Center at 888-675-4567.