A new COVID-19 booster vaccine that offers protection against omicron strains of the virus is now available.
“The bivalent booster is a new means of protection from serious illness resulting from the COVID-19 virus,” said Dr. Jason Bowling, director of hospital epidemiology for University Health and professor at UT Health San Antonio. “The bivalent vaccine is unique because it is made from two messenger RNA (mRNA) spike protein components – those from the original strain and components from the Omicron strain responsible for the BA.4 and BA.5 variants.”
No new side effects were reported with the new bivalent vaccines. The most commonly reported side effects were similar to the original doses, and usually resolve quickly.
Dr. Bowling recommends all individuals obtain the COVID-19 vaccine and booster doses. The vaccines have proven to minimize the duration and severity of the virus, including reducing the risk of hospitalization and death. Vaccines and booster doses have been shown to be the best ways to protect ourselves and others in the fight against COVID-19.
Will it only be a booster shot?
The bivalent vaccines can only be used as a booster shot at least two months after the completion of the primary series – or initial required shots – or following a previous booster shot. The Moderna bivalent vaccine is authorized for use in people 18 years of age, while the Pfizer bivalent vaccine is authorized for those 12 years of age and older.
Because of the superiority of the bivalent vaccines, the FDA has also removed the use authorization for the original monovalent Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines for booster purposes in individuals 18 years of age and older and 12 years of age and older, respectively.
Can I get a COVID booster and flu shot at the same time?
The CDC says it’s safe to get a flu shot at the same time as any SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. Because the two viruses will be circulating at the same time, the CDC encourages it.
It’s also acceptable to get a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine or booster with other needed vaccines.
There’s just one exception—monkeypox, noted Dr. Fryhofer. ACAM2000 and JYNNEOS are the two available vaccines for this disease. ACAM2000 has been linked to myocarditis, a heart condition associated with COVID vaccines in young males. Myocarditis risk in JYNNEOS is unknown.
“If you’ve received a dose of either of them, CDC suggests waiting for four weeks to get a COVID vaccine dose. However, if you’ve already received a COVID vaccine dose and you’re now at risk of monkeypox due to exposure, no need to wait,” she noted.
How to find a booster shot near me
Major pharmacy retailers like Walgreens say they’re offering both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent vaccines, depending on the location. Both companies say they welcome walk-ins, but encourage patients to schedule an appointment online.
Scheduling an appointment is preferred and available starting today via the Walgreens app, 1-800-WALGREENS, or online at Walgreens.com/ScheduleVaccine. Walgreens offers convenient, neighborhood locations and appointments that fit family schedules, including evenings and weekends.