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All you need to know about the new booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine

On September 1, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States approved and recommended an updated COVID-19 booster for anyone 5 years and older. We're here to answer all your booster questions, and we encourage you to stay up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccinations and protect yourself and your loved ones.

  • How is the updated booster different from the previous version?

The new booster shot is “bivalent,” meaning that it targets multiple strains of COVID-19, while the older version only targets the original strain of COVID-19. The new, updated booster targets both the original strain of COVID-19 and the currently spreading strains. Because the new booster targets the newer, currently dominant strains of the virus, it has the potential to provide better protection against infection in addition to hospitalization and death. 

  • Why should I get the new booster if I've already been vaccinated or if I already have  the booster(s) recommended for my age group?

The new booster provides the best protection against currently circulating strains of COVID-19. Getting the updated booster means that you're staying up to date with your vaccination status, helping prevent potential surges of COVID-19 cases in the fall and winter, and protecting yourself and others from sever disease, hospitalization, and death.

Protection from vaccines and boosters decreases after about six months, so getting recommended boosters and staying up to date on your vaccinations increases your immune system's ability to respond to the virus.

  • What are the requirements for getting a booster? 

Two brands of updated COVID-19 boosters have been approved: Moderna and Pfizer. The new Moderna booster is available to anyone 6 years and older who has had their two primary doses of a COVID-19 vaccine (e.g. 2 doses of an MRNA vaccine like Pfizer), and the Pfizer booster is available to anyone 5 years and older who has had a primary series of COVID-19 vaccination. 

You should wait at least 2 months from your last COVID-19 vaccination to get the updated booster. You do NOT need to have a previous COVID-19 booster to get the updated booster. You're eligible for the new booster regardless of how many booster doses you have previously received. 

The brand of your previous primary series of COVID-19 vaccinations does not impact the brand of booster you should get. For example, you do not need to get a Pfizer booster if you were vaccinated with a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine previously. Whichever brand of booster that is available to you will build your immunity against currently circulating variants and help protect you from infection, hospitalization, and death. 

  • How do I know if I'm getting the old version of the booster or the new one?

The good news is that if you're getting a booster, it should be the new, updated version. The new boosters should be widely available in most places by mid-September. Some places are already offering the updated boosters, so the best way to make sure updated boosters are available is to check in with the clinic where you plan to get your booster before you go. You could check social media, like the Facebook page for your local health department, or call if, for example, a phone number is listed on a clinic flyer or graphic to confirm the availability of the new booster.

  • How do I find a clinic to get my booster dose?

Visiting Vaccines.gov (in English) or Vacunas.gov (in Spanish) or calling 1-800-232-0233 are the best ways to get information about vaccine clinics and appointments anywhere in the U.S.

To find local opportunities, consider connecting with your local health department that may be offering public, walk-in clinics. You could start by searching for  “[name of the county where you live or work] Health Department” on Facebook, clicking on your local health department's Facebook page, and looking for Facebook events or schedules of upcoming vaccination clinics. 

Some state health departments also offer COVID-19 hotlines and vaccination clinics, so you can also check your state health department's website or Facebook page for possible updates about the new booster. 

  • What about boosters for children 5 to 11 years old? Can they get the new booster?

Children ages 5 to 11 years of age are eligible for the new booster. Children 5 to 11 years of age vaccinated with the Pfizer primary series are eligible for a booster 5 months after their last vaccination. 

  • Am I going to need to get a new booster shot every time a new variant of COVID-19 starts spreading widely?

COVID-19 will likely continue to mutate, which means our tools for combating COVID-19 will need to change, too. That means that new formulations, like the updated booster, will likely be needed, and new and more effective types of vaccines may be developed over time as well. Staying up to date on your vaccinations, including updated boosters, will continue to be a key tool in controlling the spread of COVID-19 and its impact on our daily lives. 

President Biden outlined a plan to offer those living in the U.S. a yearly COVID-19 booster, just like annual flu shots. However, that plan could change based on the emergence and impact of new variants. 

COVID-19 information and recommendations will continue to change, but we're here to help! Check back with us for the latest COVID-19 news or visit SOL: covid-chat.org