Sept. 12, 2022 — New COVID boosters that focus on the fast-spreading Omicron strains of the virus are rolling out this week, with the CDC recommending these so-called bivalent mRNA pictures for Individuals 12 and older.

Listed below are solutions to continuously requested questions concerning the pictures produced by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, based mostly on data offered by the CDC and Keri Althoff, PhD, and virologist Andrew Pekosz, PhD, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg College of Public Well being epidemiologists.

Q: Who’s eligible for the brand new bivalent boosters?

A: The CDC greenlighted the upgraded Pfizer/BioNTech pictures for Individuals 12 and older and the Moderna booster for these 18 and over, if they’ve obtained a main vaccine sequence or a booster at the least 2 months earlier than.

The boosters have been redesigned to guard in opposition to the predominant BA.4 and BA.5 strains of the virus. The Biden administration is making 160 million of the booster pictures accessible freed from cost by pharmacies, physician’s places of work, clinics, and state well being departments.

Q: What about youngsters beneath 12?

A: The brand new boosters will not be accredited for youngsters beneath 12. Further testing and trials must be performed for security and effectiveness. However officers suggest that youngsters 5 and above obtain the first vaccine sequence and be boosted with one shot. Youngsters 6 months to beneath 5 years will not be but eligible for boosters.

Pfizer stated it hopes to ask the FDA for authorization in 5- to 11-year-olds in October.

Q: How do the brand new bivalent boosters differ from earlier pictures?

A: The brand new pictures use the identical mRNA expertise because the prior Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines and boosters however have been upgraded to focus on the newer Omicron strains. The pictures use mRNA created in a lab to show our cells to supply a particular protein that triggers an immune-system response and make antibodies that assist shield us from of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID.

The recipe for the brand new pictures incorporates the so-called “spike protein” of each the unique (ancestral) pressure of the virus and extra extremely transmissible Omicron strains (BA.4, BA.5). As soon as your physique produces these proteins, your immune system kicks into gear to mount a response.

It’s additionally attainable – however but to be decided – that the brand new bivalent boosters will supply safety in opposition to newer however much less widespread strains often known as BA.4.6 and BA.2.75.

Q: Are there any new dangers or unwanted side effects related to these boosters?

A: Well being specialists don’t count on to see something past what has already been famous with prior mRNA vaccines, with the overwhelming majority of recipients experiencing solely gentle points comparable to redness from the shot, soreness, and fatigue.

Q: Do I would like one of many new pictures if I’ve already had previous boosters or had COVID?

Sure. Even if you happen to’ve been contaminated with COVID prior to now 12 months and/or obtained the prior sequence of main vaccines and boosters, you need to get a bivalent Omicron shot.

Doing so gives you broader immunity in opposition to COVID and likewise assist restrict the emergence of different variants. The extra Individuals with excessive immunity, the higher; it makes it much less probably different variants will emerge that may escape the immunity offered by vaccines and COVID infections.

Q: How lengthy ought to I wait, from the time of my final shot, earlier than getting a brand new booster?

A: The bivalent boosters are best when given after a time frame has handed between your final shot and the brand new one. A 2-to-3-month ready interval is the minimal, however some proof suggests extending it out to 4 to six months may be good timing.

To find out when you need to get a brand new booster, take a look at the CDC’s Keep As much as Date with COVID-19 Vaccines Together with Boosters web site.

Q: What if I’ve just lately had COVID?

A: There are not any particular guidelines a few ready interval after COVID an infection. However if in case you have been contaminated with the virus within the final 8 weeks, you might need to watch for 8 weeks to go earlier than receiving the bivalent booster to permit your immune system to get higher profit from the shot.

Q: If I by no means acquired the unique vaccines, do I must get these pictures first?

A: Sure. The bivalent vaccine has a decrease dose of mRNA than the vaccines used within the main sequence of vaccines, rolled out in late 2020. The bivalent vaccine is permitted to be used as a booster dose and never a main vaccine sequence dose.

Q: Do the Omicron-specific boosters solely substitute the opposite boosters?

A: Sure. The brand new booster pictures, which goal the unique pressure and the Omicron subvariants, are actually the one accessible boosters for folks ages 12 and older. The FDA now not authorizes the earlier booster doses for folks within the accredited age teams.

Q: What if I obtained a non-mRNA vaccine produced by Novavax or Johnson & Johnson? Ought to I nonetheless get an mRNA booster?

A: You possibly can combine and match COVID vaccines, and you might be eligible to get the bivalent booster 8 weeks after finishing the first COVID vaccination sequence – whether or not that was two doses of mRNA or Novavax, or one shot of J&J.

Q: How efficient are the brand new boosters?

A: Scientists don’t have full effectiveness knowledge from the bivalent vaccines but. However as a result of the brand new boosters include mRNA from the Omicron and the unique strains, they’re believed to supply higher safety in opposition to COVID total.

Mobile-level knowledge helps this, with research exhibiting the bivalent vaccines enhance neutralizing antibodies to BA.4/BA.5 strains. Scientists regard these sorts of research as surrogate stand-ins for medical trials. However officers will probably be learning the effectiveness of the brand new boosters, inspecting to what diploma they scale back hospitalizations and deaths.

Q: How lengthy will the boosters’ safety final?

A: Analysis exhibits that vaccine effectiveness ultimately wanes, which is why we now have the boosters. Scientists will probably be monitoring to see how lengthy the safety lasts from the bivalent boosters by research of antibody ranges in addition to assessments of extreme COVID sicknesses over time, all through the autumn and winter.

Q: Is it OK to get a flu shot and a COVID booster on the identical time?

A: Sure. In reality, it’s essential to get a flu shot this 12 months as a result of some specialists imagine we might see overlapping COVID-influenza surges this fall – a phenomenon some have fancifully known as a “twindemic.” Getting a flu shot and COVID booster — concurrently, if attainable – is especially essential if you happen to’re in a high-risk group.

People who find themselves inclined to extreme issues from COVID — comparable to older folks, folks with weakened immune programs, and people will power well being circumstances — are additionally particularly weak to extreme influenza issues.

Q: Will a brand new booster imply I can cease sporting a masks, social distancing, avoiding crowded indoor areas, and taking different precautions to keep away from COVID?

A: No. It’s nonetheless a good suggestion to masks up, hold your distance from others, keep away from indoor areas with folks whose vaccine standing is unknown, and take different precautions in opposition to COVID.

Though the brand new boosters are entrance of thoughts, it’s a good suggestion to additionally use different instruments within the toolbox, as properly, significantly if in case you have contact with somebody who’s older, immune-suppressed, has a power situation that places them at increased threat from COVID.

Remember: The neighborhood threat of an infection nationwide continues to be excessive in the present day, with about 67,400 new instances and almost 320 deaths reported every day within the U.S., in accordance with the newest CDC studies.

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