New COVID boosters: what to know and when to get one

What is happening

The CDC and FDA have approved new boosters from Pfizer and Moderna that target the new strains of the omicron variant.

why is it important

Older vaccine formulations are still effective at preventing serious disease, but the mutant virus has reduced some of that protection. The new formulas target BA.5, which is responsible for most current cases of COVID-19.

And after

The injections should be available in pharmacies across the country in the coming days. People aged 12 and over are eligible for one.

The new COVID-19 boosters are here. Last week, the United States Centers for Disease Control and the United States Food and Drug Administration approved updated formulas from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna targeting the latest versions of COVID-19.

Earlier this summer, the FDA asked vaccine makers to create new vaccine formulations that target the older strain of COVID-19 as well as the strain found in omicron’s BA.4/BA.5 subvariants. (a two-component dose called a bivalent vaccine). The sense of urgency is ahead of an expected fall and winter surge of COVID-19 cases, when most of us will be spending more time indoors.

The shots are being distributed, perhaps already in a pharmacy near you. But questions remain: who needs it and when should they get one? As with previous boosters, the guide is not exactly one size fits all.

Here’s what we know about the updated boosters.

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What are the new omicron boosters? Have they been tested?

The FDA cleared recalls of bivalent (two-component) vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna. Both formulas include advanced protein BA.4/BA.5 combined with an older strain. Pfizer is for people 12 and older, and Moderna is for adults 18 and older.

When cleared by the FDA, the agency made its decision on clinical trials on a slightly different bivalent booster that targets the BA.1 version of omicron instead of BA.4/BA/5, in addition BA mouse studies. Form 4/BA.5. While this has been unprecedented in the COVID-19 vaccination campaign so far, health officials say it’s not too far off from how we approach flu shots. Every year the flu vaccine is modified with a strain that they believe is the best target. The new COVID-19 reminders also do not introduce new vaccine ingredients.

“Bivalent and multivalent vaccines are very common, and modifying a vaccine to include different viral strains often does not require changing other ingredients,” FDA Commissioner Rober M. Califf said in a statement. Tweeter Last week. “The FDA has extensive experience reviewing strain changes in vaccines, such as the annual flu vaccine.”

When should I receive the new booster?

The updated Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech boosters are FDA-cleared for people who have gone at least two months since their last vaccine dose, whether it was a booster or primary series. It doesn’t matter which vaccine you originally received, and it doesn’t matter which brand you choose now. Moderna’s new booster, like its previous vaccine, is a slightly larger dose (50 micrograms) than Pfizer’s (30 micrograms).

See also: Moderna sues Pfizer over mRNA technology used in COVID vaccines

During the CDC panel meeting, a few committee members expressed concern that some people would be better off waiting more than two months between their last vaccine and this new booster, especially people who recently had the COVID-19 and who still have relatively high immunity. (In its general vaccine guidelines, the CDC says people can wait three months before getting a shot if they overcome COVID-19.) And while myocarditis is rare overall, younger men and adolescents appear to be at higher risk post-vaccination, and waiting longer between vaccine doses appears to reduce this risk.

From an immune response perspective, some infectious disease physicians have suggested to wait four to six months between your last COVID-19 infection or vaccine to get the most out of the new booster.

But most people eligible for a booster are well past the two-month period following their last vaccine anyway, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told NPR.

“What we’ve seen is that almost everyone who is eligible for a boost is well over two months after their last boost,” Walensky said. “Certainly we wouldn’t want anyone to get a boost too soon.”

If you have recently had COVID-19 or have further questions about the recall, you can contact your doctor for more information and advice specific to your health.

Where can I get a new vaccine?

Pharmacies across the United States are expected to receive doses of the new booster right now, and they will continue to roll out in the coming days. You should be able to use the vaccine search site vaccines.gov.

What are the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants?

BA.4 and BA.5 are considered part of the family of “original” omicron variants (BA.1). These are newer versions of the virus that causes COVID-19. BA.5 quickly passed the conversation and is now the dominant variant in the United States.

While we are still experiencing the true effects of a summer surge of BA.5 in the US, the new subvariant is thought to reduce much of the infection protection people gained from previous illness. , even with other omicron variants.

Omicron caused such a high number of cases last winter because it was the most contagious variant to date, evading some protection against infection from previous illnesses and the effectiveness of vaccines. The fact that newer versions of omicron are proving to be even more contagious is no big surprise, as this is the path COVID-19 has taken over the past two and a half years.

Learn more about everything we know about BA.5.

Rows of COVID-19 vaccine vials

Urzine/Getty Images

What about Novavax and J&J?

Novavaxwho is coming has been recommended by the CDC for its main two-dose vaccine, said earlier this summer that it was accelerating work on a formula specifically targeting new versions of omicron, but it is not yet on the table for this fall vaccination campaign and winter.

Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, although still available in the United States, has only been recommended for people who are unable or unwilling to take another COVID-19 vaccine, due to the risk of a very rare but dangerous side effect. J&J did not respond to an earlier request for comment on the company’s plans for the drop in the United States.

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical or health advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.

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