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Sept. 12, 2022 – New COVID boosters targeting the fast-spreading omicron strains of the virus are being rolled out this week with the CDC recommends these so-called bivalent mRNA shots for Americans ages 12 and older.

Here are answers to frequently asked questions about the syringes manufactured by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, based on information provided by the CDC and Keri Althoff, PhD, and virologist Andrew Pekosz, PhD, epidemiologists at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health , have been provided.

Q: Who is entitled to the new bivalent boosters?

A: The CDC gave the green light to the improved Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines for Americans 12 years and older and the Moderna booster vaccine for individuals 18 years and older if they received a basic series or a booster vaccine at least 2 months prior.

The boosters have been redesigned to protect against the prevalent BA.4 and BA.5 strains of the virus. The Biden administration is making 160 million of the booster shots available for free through pharmacies, doctor’s offices, clinics and state health departments.

Q: What about children under 12?

A: The new boosters are not approved for children under the age of 12. Additional tests and studies need to be conducted for safety and effectiveness. However, officials recommend that children as young as 5 receive the primary vaccination series and are boosted with a shot. Children aged 6 months to less than 5 years cannot yet receive a booster vaccination.

Pfizer hopes to apply to the FDA for approval in October for 5- to 11-year-olds.

Q: How are the new bivalent boosters different from previous recordings?

A: The new vaccines use the same mRNA technology as the previous Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines and boosters, but have been updated to target the newer Omicron strains. the shots Use mRNA created in a lab to teach our cells to produce a specific protein that triggers an immune system response and to make antibodies that protect us from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID.

The recipe for the new shots contains the so-called “spike protein” of both the original (ancestral) strain of the virus and higher transmissible omicron strains (BA.4, BA.5). Once your body produces these proteins, your immune system kicks in to mount a response.

It is also possible – but yet to be determined – that the new bivalent boosters provide protection against newer but less common strains known as BA.4.6 and BA.2.75.

Q: Are there any new risks or side effects associated with these boosters?

A: Health experts are not expecting anything beyond what has already been seen with previous mRNA vaccines, as the vast majority of recipients experience only mild problems such as redness from the injection, pain and fatigue.

Q: Do I need any of the new shots if I have had previous booster shots or have had COVID?

Yes. Even if you have contracted COVID in the past year and/or received the previous series of primary and booster vaccinations, you should receive a bivalent Omicron vaccine.

This will give you broader immunity to COVID and also help limit the emergence of other variants. The more Americans with high immunity, the better; it makes it less likely that other variants will emerge that may evade immunity from vaccines and COVID infections.

Q: How long should I wait from the time of my last vaccination before getting a new booster?

A: The bivalent boosters are most effective when given after a period of time has passed between your last vaccination and the new one. A wait of 2 to 3 months is the minimum, but some evidence suggests that extending it to 4 to 6 months might be a good time.

To determine when you should get a new booster shot, visit the CDC website Keeping Up to Date with COVID-19 Vaccines, including Boosters.

Q: What if I recently had COVID?

A: There are no specific rules for waiting after COVID infection. But if you have contracted the virus in the last 8 weeks, you should wait 8 weeks before having the bivalent booster so that your immune system can better benefit from the vaccine.

Q: If I never received the original vaccines, do I need to get those vaccines first?

A: Yes. The bivalent vaccine has a lower mRNA dose than the vaccines used in the first series of vaccines, which will be launched in late 2020. The bivalent vaccine is approved for use as a booster dose and not as a first dose dose.

Q: Do the Omicron specific boosters completely replace the other boosters?

A: Yes. The new booster shots, targeting the original strain and the Omicron subvariants, are now the only boosters available for those aged 12+. The FDA no longer approves the previous booster doses for people in the approved age groups.

Q: What if I received a non-mRNA vaccine made by Novavax or Johnson & Johnson? Should I still get an mRNA booster?

A: You can mix and match COVID vaccines, and be eligible to receive the bivalent booster 8 weeks after completion of the primary COVID vaccine course – whether it was two doses of mRNA or Novavax or one shot of J&J.

Q: How effective are the new boosters?

A: Scientists do not yet have complete data on the effectiveness of the bivalent vaccines. However, because the new boosters contain mRNA from both the omicron and the original strains, they are thought to offer better overall protection against COVID.

Cell-level data supports this, with studies showing that the bivalent vaccines increase neutralizing antibodies against BA.4/BA.5 strains. Scientists consider such studies as a substitute for clinical trials. However, officials will study the effectiveness of the new boosters and the extent to which they reduce hospitalizations and deaths.

Q: How long does the booster protection last?

A: Research shows that eventually the effectiveness of the vaccine wears off, which is why we have the booster shot. Scientists will monitor how long the protection provided by the bivalent boosters lasts through studies of antibody levels and assessments of severe COVID disease over time over the fall and winter.

Q: Is it okay to get a flu shot and a COVID booster at the same time?

A: Yes. In fact, getting the flu shot this year is important, as some experts believe we could see overlapping flares of COVID-19 influenza this fall – a phenomenon some have fancifully dubbed the “twindemic.” Getting a flu shot and a COVID booster — at the same time if possible — is especially important if you’re in a high-risk group.

People who are vulnerable to severe complications from COVID — such as the elderly, those with compromised immune systems, and those with chronic health conditions — are also particularly vulnerable to severe flu complications.

Q: Does a new booster mean I can stop wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing, avoiding crowded indoor spaces, and taking other precautions to avoid COVID?

A: no It’s still a good idea to dress up, keep your distance from others, avoid indoor spaces with people whose vaccination status is unknown, and take other precautions against COVID.

Although the focus is on the new boosters, it’s a good idea to use other tools in the toolbox as well, especially if you’re dealing with someone who’s elderly, immunocompromised, and has a chronic condition that puts them at higher risk of COVID.

Remember: The nationwide risk of infection for the community remains high today, with about 67,400 new cases and nearly 320 deaths reported daily in the United States, according to the latest CDC reports.


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FAQ: New COVID Omicron Boosters
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