COVID-19 updates: Omicron, testing, vaccines, boosters

The highly contagious omicron variant is spreading rapidly throughout the country

The omicron variant is causing a surge in demand for COVID-19 testing at Kaiser Permanente and other health care organizations. Rest assured that we’re doing everything we can to meet this high and growing demand. Still, there may be longer than usual wait times for testing at our facilities, even if members have an appointment — and test result turnaround times are presently exceeding 72 hours.

Given these challenges, Kaiser Permanente is prioritizing testing for those who are ill. We are currently testing members who have symptoms and members who are coming in for certain clinical procedures. Members who do not meet these criteria but need COVID-19 tests for other reasons should not go to urgent care or the emergency department if specifically seeking testing. We must maintain access at those locations for the health and safety of members who need immediate care. FDA-approved, at-home tests can be used instead, and other testing locations are available.

Note: Many of these facilities will bill Kaiser Permanente directly, so members may not have to pay anything out of pocket. If they are charged, Kaiser Permanente will reimburse them for the cost of the test.

Kaiser Permanente also continues to vaccinate as many people as possible

COVID-19 vaccines protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and death due to infection — however, breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are occurring. So getting a booster, if eligible, will provide the best protection against severe illness from COVID-19.

Updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The CDC has recommended a COVID-19 vaccine booster for 12- to 15-year-olds. The CDC also updated its recommendation to shorten the timing for a Pfizer booster dose to at least 5 months after completion of the initial 2-shot series. In addition, the CDC recommends a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine for immunocompromised children ages 5 to 11, at least 28 days after the second dose. To learn more, visit the CDC website.

Kaiser Permanente members can schedule appointments for COVID-19 vaccines, boosters, or flu shots

COVID-19 vaccines and flu shots can be scheduled online or via the Kaiser Permanente Washington mobile app. Members can also visit vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov to find an approved vaccine provider in their communities — and flu shots are available at no additional cost from select retailers and pharmacies now through March 31, 2022. For more information, visit kp.org/covidvaccine or call our 24/7 KP COVID Vaccine InfoLine at 1-877-808-9233 (available in English and Spanish) for regular recorded updates.

Not sure which vaccine to get?

The CDC has recommended mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after reviewing growing safety and efficacy data. That said, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is still a good option for those unable to receive the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines and definitely preferred over no vaccine at all. Members who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are encouraged to receive a booster shot of an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) after 2 months to ensure maximum protection from COVID-19 and its variants. Read the full CDC statement.

In addition to vaccination

Public health officials and Kaiser Permanente infectious disease experts recommend staying close to home because of how fast the omicron variant is currently spreading. The following can also help limit exposure to the virus:

  • Avoid unnecessary travel
  • Avoid gathering with people outside of your household
  • Wear a mask in public indoor settings
  • Wash hands frequently
  • Get tested at the first sign of symptoms
  • Stay home when sick

Need more information?

Kaiser Permanente offers educational materials with insights and tools that can help answer questions about COVID-19 and build confidence in the safety and effectiveness of vaccination. We encourage you to share these resources with your employees — especially since conflicting information about the virus continues to circulate.

Learn more by visiting the COVID-19 resource center or visit kp.​org/covidvaccine.​ You can also call our 24/7 KP COVID Vaccine InfoLine at 1-877-808-9233 (available in English and Spanish) for regular recorded updates.

All plans offered and underwritten by Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington or Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington Options, Inc.

© 2021 Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington