The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized a new COVID-19 vaccine booster that protects against both the original strain of SARS-CoV-2 and the omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants of the virus.
The new vaccine is a “bivalent” vaccine, or one that stimulates the immune response to a pair of antigens rather than a single antigen, as the original “monovalent” vaccine did.
The FDA authorized Moderna’s new bivalent COVID-19 vaccine for use as a single booster dose in individuals 18 years of age and older. At the same time, the agency authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent vaccine for use as a single booster dose in individuals 12 years of age and older.
In both cases, people should wait at least two months following their initial vaccine or booster shot before receiving the new bivalent vaccination.
While the contents of the booster have changed, the process to receive it remains the same; pharmacies and other vaccine sites throughout the U.S. are now stocked with the new vaccine.
In its announcement, the FDA pointed out that the omicron variants are responsible for most current cases of COVID-19, which is not expected to change as we head into flu season. A vaccine booster that responds to both the original virus and the omicron variants has the best chance of minimizing COVID-19 spread this winter.
“The COVID-19 vaccines, including boosters, continue to save countless lives and prevent the most serious outcomes (hospitalization and death) of COVID-19,” said FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D. “As we head into fall and begin to spend more time indoors, we strongly encourage anyone who is eligible to consider receiving a booster dose with a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine to provide better protection against currently circulating variants.”
Information about the clinical trials and safety data relating to the FDA’s authorizations can be found in their announcement.
The agency shared these resources as well:
- Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine
- Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine
- COVID-19 Bivalent Vaccine Boosters
- COVID-19 Vaccines
- Emergency Use Authorization for Vaccines Explained
For more information about the COVID-19 vaccines, visit the Virginia Department of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And to schedule your vaccine or booster—and your annual flu shot—contact your primary care physician.