RALEIGH, N.C. (WAVY) — The Food and Drug Administration has authorized the use of an updated COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 6 months to 4 years old in North Carolina.

The bivalent vaccine protects against the original coronavirus strain and Omicron variants. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS)s has stated that the vaccine is an important tool to protect young children from the virus.

Children under 5 should receive the same vaccine brand for all recommended doses. The updated vaccine is available to children who received their last dose of a Moderna vaccine at least two months ago, as well as children who have already had two doses of the Pfizer vaccine and are ready for their third dose.

It is possible for children 6 months and older to receive the updated vaccine along with other routine vaccines at the same visit. Parents are encouraged to speak with a healthcare provider to ensure their child is up to date on their COVID-19 and other vaccinations.

“More children now have the opportunity to get the most up-to-date protection from COVID-19 to help renew their body’s defenses against the virus,” said NCDHHS Assistant Secretary for Public Health and State Public Health Officer Dr. Susan Kansagra. “Many North Carolinians have already protected themselves and their children from the virus by getting vaccinated. Now is the time to make sure the whole family is up to date so you can continue to have the best protection this winter.”

COVID-19 vaccines are currently free to everyone through federal funding, regardless of insurance or immigration status. When federal funding ends, the vaccines will still be available like flu shots and other routine vaccinations, but may no longer be free for everyone. Flu vaccines are often available at little to no cost. Parents and guardians of children without a healthcare provider can search for a nearby vaccine provider at MySpot.nc.gov.

For more information about COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, as well as locations to receive them, visit MySpot.nc.gov or call the CDC-INFO Contact Center at 800-CDC-INFO.

For information on testing and treatments, visit MySpot.nc.gov/Treatment.