An updated COVID vaccine booster is available, just in time for cold and flu season. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave emergency use authorization to two separate booster shots from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. The new shots offer additional protection against two highly contagious omicron variants. Here’s what to know about the new shots and where you can go to get your next booster.
What’s different about the updated COVID booster?
The newly authorized COVID boosters are reformulated versions of the original vaccines, updated with spike protein components from omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5. Currently, these variants are dominant in the U.S., and health experts predict they will continue to circulate this fall and winter.
“The updated COVID-19 boosters are formulated to better protect against the most recently circulating COVID-19 variant,” says CDC Director Rochelle Walensky in a press release. “They can help restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination and were designed to provide broader protection against newer variants.”
Who can get the updated COVID boosters?
Booster shots are recommended for people 12 and older, though your age may affect which booster is available to you. Pfizer’s updated booster is available to anyone ages 12 and up, while the Moderna booster is available only to those ages 18 and older.
You’re eligible to receive the booster if you meet these age requirements and:
- You’ve completed a primary COVID vaccine series.
- It’s been at least two months since your second primary dose or last booster dose.
For people 12 years and older, the updated bivalent COVID booster is now the only authorized mRNA COVID booster. Those in this age group can no longer get the original monovalent mRNA booster.
Do I still need a booster if I recently had COVID?
If you’ve recently recovered from COVID, you don’t need to wait to get a booster shot. For those who’d prefer to wait, the CDC advises that you may delay your booster by up to three months from when your first symptoms started or you received a positive test.
Reinfection is less likely in the weeks immediately following a COVID infection; however, the CDC says your risk of re-infection may be higher based on:
- Community transmission.
- The contagiousness of different variants.
- Your personal risk level.
“If you are eligible, there is no bad time to get your COVID-19 booster, and I strongly encourage you to receive it,” Walensky says.
Can kids under 12 get the updated COVID booster?
At this time, kids under 12 aren’t included in the updated emergency use authorization for the new bivalent boosters.
Kids ages 6 months to 11 years are still able to get the original monovalent Pfizer booster following their primary vaccine series. In a fall booster planning guide, the CDC says they expect an updated bivalent booster for “younger pediatric age groups” to be available following the approval of updated boosters for older kids; however, an exact timeline for the availability of other boosters hasn’t been released.
Are the updated COVID boosters safe?
Both the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) evaluated the new booster shots for safety and to ensure a robust immune response. In data presented to the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the CDC says the “overall composition” of the monovalent and bivalent vaccine boosters is the same, and they “do not anticipate differences in safety.”
“The public can be assured that a great deal of care has been taken by the FDA to ensure that these bivalent COVID-19 vaccines meet our rigorous safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality standards for emergency use authorization,” says Dr. Peter Marks, Director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, in a statement.
Where can I get the bivalent COVID booster?
The new booster shots are available beginning this week at a number of doctor’s offices, pharmacies and local public health departments. Contact your health provider for more information on the best place to go.
If you aren’t sure where to get a shot, vaccines.gov can also help you locate the vaccine sites nearest to you.