5 FAQs about the new COVID vaccine boosters

By The Health News Team | October 10, 2022
Person wearing mask showing vaccine bandage

When it comes to COVID-19, things often seem to be in flux, which is to be expected with a new infectious disease. There are innovative new treatments, changes in precaution recommendations — and now —new COVID-19 vaccine boosters.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the new mRNA bivalent COVID-19 vaccine boosters offer an update to the original boosters. They are formulated to better protect against the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the omicron variant, responsible for most new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. The new boosters can restore protection against COVID-19 that has waned since people received their original vaccines and boosters.

Want to know more about the updated shots and why you should get one? Here are answers to your top five questions about the new bivalent COVID-19 vaccine boosters:

1. How do the updated boosters provide more protection?

The new bivalent COVID-19 vaccine boosters — made by Pfizer and Moderna — contain two mRNA components of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. One component is of the original coronavirus strain and the other component is common in both the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the omicron variant.
These components give the body’s cells instructions for how to make copies of the spike protein unique to the virus and its variants. Recognizing that the protein should not be there, the body creates protective antibodies that remember how to fight both the original coronavirus and its omicron variants in case of future infection. The CDC reports the new booster increases the immune response, improving protection against getting a serious COVID-19 infection, and will replace the original boosters for all eligible groups.

2. Who can get one of the new boosters?

People age 5 and older who have completed their primary COVID-19 vaccine series are eligible for the updated Pfizer booster. People age 6 and older who have completed their primary vaccine series can receive the new Moderna booster.

Additionally, the CDC is allowing people age 18 and older the option to receive a Novavax monovalent booster instead of the bivalent Pfizer or Moderna booster if they cannot or will not receive mRNA vaccines. To be eligible, they must have completed primary series vaccination but have not previously received a COVID-19 booster.

3. When can I get one of the updated boosters?

To receive a booster, it must be at least two months since your primary COVID-19 vaccination was completed or two months since you received a COVID-19 vaccine booster.
If you had COVID-19 and recovered, you are eligible to receive a booster dose if you have also completed your primary vaccination series. However, the CDC notes that you may consider waiting up to three months after you began to have symptoms of or tested positive for COVID before receiving a booster. More time between having COVID-19 and receiving a booster may increase your body’s immune response.

4. What side effects should I expect from the new boosters?

Booster side effects are usually mild to moderate. After receiving a booster, you may experience side effects like those you had after receiving one of the primary vaccines.
Possible side effects include soreness at the injection site, fever, body aches and headaches. These symptoms are common for any vaccine and indicate your body's immune system is preparing to work against the virus if needed.

5. Do I really need to get one of the new bivalent COVID-19 boosters?

Booster doses are advised when the protection provided by a vaccine wears off over time or as different viruses circulate or mutate, as the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has done. Other vaccinations that require boosters or updated shots include the annual flu shot; the pneumonia vaccine; and the tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) vaccines.

According to the California Department of Public Health, to prevent severe illness and death due to COVID-19 complications, a wide-ranging approach is needed. In addition to receiving the primary series of a COVID-19 vaccine a booster, it is crucial that you stay safe by also:

  • Washing your hands often

  • Masking up in large crowds and when feeling sick

  • Staying aware of rising cases in your area

  • Getting tested if you know or believe you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19

  • Staying home when you have symptoms or have received a positive COVID-19 test result

Contact your doctor or other community vaccine provider, such as a local pharmacy, for information on COVID-19 vaccine booster availability and scheduling. Local availability will be updated on the San Diego County’s COVID-19 website and appointments can be made via MyTurn.

Learn more about COVID-19; get the latest health and wellness news, trends and patient stories from Sharp Health News.

Get COVID-19 vaccine and testing information and access to COVID-19 resources from Sharp.

This article was updated in October 2022.

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