As the third summer of the COVID pandemic comes to a close, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized the first set of updated COVID vaccine boosters. The new boosters target the most recent dominant subvariants of the coronavirus and can help keep people protected as they begin to gather inside once more.
Below, staff from UR Medicine, answer some of your most frequent questions about the new COVID boosters.
Who is eligible for the new COVID booster?
In order to be eligible to receive an updated COVID booster, you must:
n Have completed the primary series of the COVID vaccine (two doses of Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, or Novavax COVID vaccines or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine).
n Have NOT had a COVID shot in the past two months
n Be 18 or older to get the new Moderna COVID booster
n Be 12 or older to receive the new Pfizer/BioNTech COVID booster (Note: people age 12-18 can no longer receive the original COVID boosters.)
If you’ve previously had one of the original COVID boosters, you may still get an updated booster – as long as you meet the COVID booster criteria above, which were set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
When can I get an updated COVID booster?
The updated COVID boosters are available now and are being shipped nationwide.
Where can I get an updated COVID booster near me?
To find an updated COVID booster near you, ask your physician, pharmacist or community health center, or search for availability at your local pharmacy via www.vaccines.gov.
How long after the COVID booster are you immune?
Generally, people with healthy immune systems are protected from infection for three to four months after receiving a COVID booster, but protection from severe illness lasts eight months to a year. If you’ve had a COVID vaccine and a natural infection, you will be immune longer.
What’s different about the new COVID boosters?
There are two updated COVID boosters available: one produced by Pfizer/BioNTech and another produced by Moderna. Both boosters contain some of the original COVID vaccine formula, but also target the omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5, which have caused the majority of COVID cases in the U.S. since early July.
How long should I wait between getting a flu shot and the new COVID booster?
According to the CDC, there is no need to wait between getting a flu shot and COVID vaccine. It is safe to get a COVID vaccine or booster at the same time as a flu vaccine or other vaccines – and the CDC recommends you get both. September and October are good times to get a flu vaccine.
How long after having COVID can I get the booster?
To take advantage of the natural immune boost provided by infection, it is generally a good idea to wait about three months after having COVID to get a COVID booster. However, immune responses vary from person to person and depend on which viral variant you were infected with, so it’s always best to discuss with your physician.
COVID cases are low in my area. Do I need a booster? Should I wait for cases to rise?
Getting a COVID booster is certainly not as urgent as getting the primary COVID vaccine, but there’s no need to wait if you currently meet the criteria recommended by the CDC (listed above). Generally, we expect COVID cases to increase again in the fall as people begin to gather indoors, but you shouldn’t wait for that to happen. If more people get boosted now, we might prevent some of those fall cases.
Will this booster protect me better than the original?
We hope that targeting the new boosters toward more recent subvariants of the coronavirus will make them more effective against future variants, but we can’t say for sure that they will. We don’t know what variants will be circulating at any given time. We anticipate that the omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants will continue to circulate for a time, but it’s quite unpredictable.
Will I need to get a new COVID booster each year?
It is likely that more COVID boosters will be needed in the future, though we can’t say for sure whether they will be an annual occurrence or how far into the future they will be needed. That’s why UR Medicine is currently conducting several COVID vaccine-related clinical trials. One trial, called COVAIL (COVID Variant Immunologic Landscape), is testing the safety and effectiveness of different COVID vaccine regimens – prototype and variant vaccines alone or in combination. Another Phase 1 trial is testing new intranasal COVID vaccines. Learn more about these and other studies at covidresearch.urmc.edu.