COVID-19 Boosters for Special Populations

3 photos of older people, 2 receiving vaccinations and one confined to bed with a caregiver sitting alongside

COVID-19 may no longer be the top news story every day, but unfortunately, it is still a threat. This is especially true for older people and others who are at higher risk of severe illness and even death.

Keeping up with recommended vaccination is one of the most important ways we can keep ourselves safer. The majority of Americans have received at least one dose of vaccine against COVID-19, but many people have not received the latest version. That latest version, the “bivalent booster,” is special because it contains vaccine that is effective against the Omicron strains that have caused the most recent wave of infections and caused thousands of hospitalizations and deaths.

The FDA just authorized a second dose of the bivalent booster for anyone who is over 65 or has a compromised immune system. The second booster must be given four months after the first one for people over age 65. For people with compromised immune systems, only two months must pass between booster doses. If you have specific questions about your own risk and need for additional vaccine doses, please consult your primary care provider.

Do you or someone you know want a booster, but can’t leave home to get it?

King County has a program to help! Public Health—Seattle & King County offers in-home COVID-19 vaccinations for anyone who needs one and cannot get it in a public setting due to a medical, mental health, or developmental condition that would make it very difficult or dangerous to receive a vaccination in a public setting. Referrals can be made by individuals for themselves or for a family member or client.

How can I request in-home COVID-19 vaccination?

Call the Special Populations Vaccine team at 206-848-0243 or fill out a short and secure online survey ( Calls will be answered by Public Health—Seattle & King County staff. Once approved, the referral will be assigned to one of several mobile vaccine teams operated by local healthcare providers. The mobile team will make an appointment to visit the resident at a time that is convenient for them.

Can my spouse or caregiver also be vaccinated?

YES! When the team is scheduled to visit a home to vaccinate a homebound resident, they will also vaccinate any person who is home at the time and is eligible and interested in receiving a vaccination.

Can you provide other vaccines, like shingles?

NO; unfortunately, this program is only funded to provide COVID-19 vaccine, not vaccines against any other disease.

Is there any cost?

NO; this program is entirely free for all King County residents.

Do I need to have an ID or a doctor’s note?

NO; you do not need to show any kind of identification or proof of residency. You also do NOT need any kind of documentation from a doctor saying that you are homebound—we trust families to make this determination. If you’re unsure whether your situation qualifies, just give us a call.

What else can I do to keep myself safe from COVID-19?

Stay informed about conditions in our community here. Keep up your handwashing. Choose outdoor settings for socializing, if possible, and ventilate indoor spaces using fans and by opening windows. Wear a mask in crowded indoor settings like grocery stores. Stay home if you have any symptoms of being ill and avoid anyone else who is sneezing or coughing.

It is likely that recommendations on when to get a new booster will change as the virus continues to change. The most up to date recommendations can be found here.

Where can I get vaccinated if I am able to leave home?

Contact your primary care provider first to see if they can vaccinate you and to ask any questions about your specific health history and vaccines. Pharmacies are a convenient option for many people—check first to see if you may need to make an appointment. For a list of public vaccine clinic locations, click here.

Contributor Caren Goldenberg manages COVID vaccine strategies for special populations at Public Health—Seattle & King County.

If you know of a group of older people who would like to arrange for a group vaccine event (e.g., a housing site, or a faith or social group whose members are mostly age 65+), contact to discuss options. Resources will be prioritized for residents who face barriers to accessing care and/or are at highest risk of serious infection.

This article originally appeared in the May 2023 issue of AgeWise King County.