The First Updated COVID-19 Booster Is Here

The CDC updated its booster guidance, and the new information affects anyone over the age of 12.

CDC-Fourth-COVID-19-Dose-For-Moderately-to-Severely-Immunocompromised-People

On September 1, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a brand new COVID-19 booster, which they're referring to as "bivalent" or the "updated booster," according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The updated booster is for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines and most people are eligible.

Here's what you need to know about the latest guidance on a fourth dose, including what makes this booster shot different from the last and who is eligible for it.

Why Is There a New Booster?

Currently, the omicron BA.4 and BA.5 lineages make up most of the COVID-19 cases in the US and the FDA predicts that they will be the main variant to circulate in the upcoming fall and winter. Because of this, the booster has been updated to include the BA.4 and BA.5 lineages of the omicron variant.

How Does It Work?

If you need a refresher on how the vaccine works, here's a brief breakdown: According to the CDC, there is a spike protein on the surface of the COVID-19 virus. The mRNA in the vaccine creates a similar spike protein in the body where the immune system will attack it and build antibodies to fight against it. This prepares the body for an actual infection of COVID-19.

With the new booster, there are two mRNA's in the vaccine: One for the original strain of SARS-CoV-2, and one for the strain that includes the omicron variant, specifically the BA.4 and BA.5 lineages, according to the CDC. So now, the body will be able to recognize and fight off the new variant, in addition to the old one.

Who Is Eligible?

Currently, the updated boosters are only eligible for adults and some children. According to the FDA, the Pfizer-BioNTech booster can be received by anyone who is over the age of 12 while the Moderna booster can be given to those who are over the age of 18.

You can receive the new booster shot at least two months after the primary doses or two months after the third additional dose (the previous booster), depending on which you've last received, according to the FDA.

Is It Effective?

The FDA has completed extensive research, performed multiple clinical trials, and collected safety and effectiveness data for both of the updated boosters. With all of this data, the FDA determined that the new booster provides additional protection against COVID-19 with the inclusion of the omicron variant.

What About the Old Booster?

The previous booster—referred to as the monovalent Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines—is no longer recommended by the FDA for individuals who are over the age of 12. It is, however, still recommended that those who are between the age of 6 months and 12 years still get the monovalent vaccine for added protection.

Who Should Get the Updated Booster?

If you are currently up to date on your vaccines and you are over the age of 12, you should highly consider getting the updated booster.

Getting an updated booster is especially important for people who are immunocompromised. This is because the immune response to COVID-19 may not be as strong as those who are not immunocompromised, according to the CDC. You are considered immunocompromised if you fit the below descriptions:

  • You are receiving active cancer treatment for cancers of the blood.
  • You have received an organ transplant.
  • You have received a stem cell transplant within the last two years.
  • You have moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome or Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome).
  • You have advanced or untreated HIV infection.
  • You are taking high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response.

If you believe you fall into any of these immunocompromised categories, the CDC recommended checking in with your healthcare provider regarding your medical condition and the vaccine.

Regardless of which vaccine you received and how many doses you've gotten, the CDC stated that people who are immunocompromised may still not be fully protected even if they are fully vaccinated. If you are immunocompromised, you should discuss additional precautions with your healthcare provider.

Summary

The first updated COVID-19 booster provides additional protection against the persistent coronavirus. This updated booster protects against the old variant as well as the new omicron variant, which the FDA predicted will be the primary variant in the upcoming fall and winter.

If you are over 12 years old and it has been two months since your primary doses or booster shot, be sure to get the updated booster to keep yourself and others protected from COVID-19.

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department as resources.

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