COVID-19 Q&A: Updated boosters are available and will increase COVID-19 immunity

September 13, 2022
Dr. Christine Hahn, Division of Public Health

The first updated COVID-19 vaccine boosters have now been authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These updated boosters are aimed more directly at the Omicron variants that continue to circulate in the U.S. and around the world.

To make the boosters more effective, Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 spike protein components have been added to the vaccines to help restore and increase protection that has declined since previous vaccination. The boosters are known as “bivalent” because they now include two components to more broadly cover the viruses that may circulate this fall.

Who should get the updated booster?

The updated booster from Pfizer-BioNTech is recommended for people ages 12 years and older. The Moderna booster is recommended for people ages 18 and older. 

The CDC recommends that everyone eligible should get the updated booster to get the best protection from the virus that causes COVID-19, which is still circulating in Idaho. It’s expected that the viruses causing COVID-19 illness will spread more, and that more people will get sick as they go back to school and spend more time indoors.

When should they get it?

People can get the updated booster if it has been at least two months since their last dose of COVID-19 vaccine. For most people, it’s been longer than two months since their last dose, so getting the booster as we head into fall respiratory illness season is especially important to avoid serious illness.

Where are the boosters available?

The updated boosters have started being sent to Idaho by manufacturers, but quantities are still limited. It’s best to visit vaccines.gov to find vaccine near you, check with your local pharmacy, or call your healthcare provider.

How often will we need to get a COVID-19 booster?

Unless a new, more contagious, or more dangerous variant evolves, the hope is that after getting the updated bivalent booster, most people will be able to get a yearly shot to maintain protection against severe illness and hospitalization from COVID-19. Those who are immunocompromised may need more doses.

It is impossible to know which new virus variants may appear this fall, so it’s important to stay aware of evolving recommendations and if you have questions to discuss your options with your healthcare provider.

Dr. Christine Hahn is Idaho’s state epidemiologist and the Division of Public Health’s medical director. She is board certified in infectious disease and works in an Idaho tuberculosis clinic twice monthly. She also serves on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

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