Two weeks ago, on August 31, 2022 another groundbreaking approval came to the world of COVID vaccination! The FDA authorized bivalent formulations of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines for use as a single booster dose at least two months after completing primary or booster vaccination.
Over the last few months, the initial excitement about the COVID vaccine and the promise of over 98% protection have started to die down because a lot of people have been testing positive for COVID, despite being fully vaccinated. The reason for this is because the virus started to mutate and produce new variants which are able to escape the immunity provided by the vaccine.
Since December 2021 the commonest variants of COVID have been the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 which are different from the original strain of COVID, BA.1.
The new bivalent vaccine provides protection against the original strain of the COVID and against the prevailing Omicron strains, BA.4 and BA.5.
The Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent is authorized for use as single booster dose in individuals 18 years of age and older.
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent is authorized for use as a single booster dose in individuals 12 years of age and older.
With new vaccines come new questions about what makes them better, who’s eligible, and when to get one.
Who’s eligible for the new coronavirus boosters?
Everyone 12 years of age and older should get an updated bivalent booster shot.
People 18 years and over can get either a Pfizer or Moderna booster shot, while teens between 12 and 18 years of age should get a Pfizer booster shot.
The CDC’s guidance suggests that getting either booster, regardless of what prior vaccines you received, is fine.
For those under 12 years of age, we are awaiting data and bivalent booster recommendations are expected later this fall.
As the bivalent boosters roll out, the older, monovalent boosters will become unavailable, so you won’t have to decide whether to get one or the other.
How long after my last vaccine (or a recent Covid-19 infection) should I get a new booster shot?
You’re likely to get the most bang for your vaccine buck if you give it at least two months after the last vaccination or three months after the last COVID infection.
How effective are these boosters?
Although clinical trial data suggests the bivalent boosters offer some improvement over the older monovalent boosters, the size of the step up isn’t as big as some researchers would like it to be.
The new vaccines raise antibody levels less robustly than the original boosters did — 2-fold compared to 25-fold. As time goes on, we will have more human data regarding the efficacy of the bivalent vaccine.
Can I get a Covid-19 booster and a flu shot at the same time?
Yes. The CDC says there is no difference in effectiveness or side effects whether a person gets a Covid-19 vaccine alone or with another vaccine.
The bivalent vaccine is widely available at doctor’s offices and pharmacies. If you would like to have a community vaccination event at your school or church or workplace, we are happy to send our mobile vaccine van to you. Please email us at email@example.com
Ritu Chandra, MD, FAAP