New shots targeting the latest version of the Omicron variant have recently been developed and are now publicly available. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has approved of new versions of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines following their authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 1. What is important to know about the new COVID-19 shot?
These COVID-19 boosters are bivalent shots—meaning that they target two different strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. They target both the original strain that all previous vaccines have protected against and the highly infectious Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 2.
The original SARS-CoV-2 spike protein is included because studies have demonstrated that using this bivalent approach provides a far broader immune response—not only does it prime the immune system to protect against the original strain, but it will also, naturally, protect against the currently circulating strains (notably, BA.4 and BA.5) to some extent. In general, given a certain degree of genetic similarity between these and future virus variants, it also may translate into a more robust response against future variants that have not yet emerged 3. In a study comparing multiple strain-specific vaccines from the University of Rochester Medical Center, researchers predicted that the next major variant to emerge may be closely related to the original strain—thereby, again, pointing to the advantage of this bivalent shot 4.
The new bivalent shot has already been safely administered to hundreds of millions of individuals already with no significant adverse side effects. Eventually, this shot is expected to be administered in a manner similar to the flu vaccine, which changes on an annual basis based on the predominant strains that are expected to be seen—without necessarily being routinely tested on humans every year to garner CDC and FDA approval.
In addition, here is what to know about eligibility for the new COVID-19 shot: anybody who is twelve years of age older and has received at least the primary series of COVID-19 vaccines is eligible to receive this booster shot 2. In addition, the individual’s last vaccination shot should have been at least two months prior to receiving the booster. Finally, individuals who have recently been infected with COVID-19 need to wait at least three months after having tested positive prior to receiving this booster shot. It is advisable to receive the updated booster shot as soon one is eligible.
With flu season around the corner, it is also important for individuals to still receive their flu vaccine, which is absolutely safe to get at the same time as the new COVID-19 booster 5.
The updated boosters are available at many of the same sites that have always provided COVID-19 vaccines and boosters—including but not limited to pharmacies, physicians’ offices, and community health centers. The closest location can be found at www.vaccines.gov.
Even though the virus is circulating at slightly lower levels compared to earlier on in 2022, nearly 500 individuals are still dying daily in the United States from COVID-19—meaning it remains a serious threat. Meanwhile, COVID-19 booster shots are projected to save between 100,000 and 150,000 lives over the course of the next six months.
1. The Omicron Booster: Your Questions Answered > News > Yale Medicine. Available at: https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/omicron-booster-covid-19. (Accessed: 17th October 2022)
2. What to Know About the New COVID Booster Shots | Columbia University Irving Medical Center. Available at: https://www.cuimc.columbia.edu/news/what-know-about-new-covid-booster-shots. (Accessed: 17th October 2022)
3. Should I get the new COVID-19 booster? Here’s what you need to know | PBS NewsHour. Available at: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/should-i-get-the-new-covid-19-booster-heres-what-you-need-to-know. (Accessed: 17th October 2022)
4. What to know about the new COVID-19 booster shots. Available at: https://health.ucdavis.edu/news/headlines/what-to-know-about-the-new-covid-19-booster-shots/2022/09. (Accessed: 17th October 2022)
5. 6 Things You Should Know About Updated COVID Boosters. Available at: https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2022/updated-covid-booster-shots.html. (Accessed: 17th October 2022)