When to get the updated COVID-19 booster
Booster shots are an easy way to increase your protection against COVID-19. They also reduce your risk of severe infection. Even better, they’re easy to get at doctor’s offices and pharmacies.
Right now, Omicron variants BA.5 and BA.4 are spreading across the U.S. And they’re very contagious, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Here’s the good news: Updated boosters that cover these variants are now available. Boosters made by Pfizer-BioNTech are for anyone 5 or older. Moderna’s updated boosters are for people 6 or older.
The new shots are called “bivalent” boosters. This means they cover both old and new variants to increase your protection.
To get the straight scoop on the new boosters, we talked to Monica Gandhi, MD. She’s an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco.
Who needs a booster?
The CDC recommends that everyone 5 or older get one updated booster shot, even if you’ve already had one or two of the previous boosters. It’s the best way to extend the protection from the vaccine and prevent illness. Being fully vaccinated and boosted lowers the risk of severe COVID-19. It also cuts the risk of ending up in the hospital.
A booster shot is particularly important for people 65 or older. “In general, who is most at risk of severe disease and most in need of boosters? Older people,” Dr. Gandhi says.
For those with lowered immune function, an updated booster shot is also high priority. For example, maybe you’re getting treated for cancer or you recently had an organ transplant. This makes you more vulnerable to getting really sick from COVID-19.
How to choose a booster
Adults can mix and match: People can get the updated Pfizer booster if they got the Moderna vaccine and vice versa. If someone got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, they can choose either the updated Moderna or Pfizer booster.
Right now, all kids 5 through 11 years, who received the Pfizer-BioNTech and from Moderna for children and adolescents ages 6 through 17 years can get the updated (bivalent) COVID-19 vaccine booster, says the CDC.
How to time the booster
The CDC recommends that most adults wait at least two months after their initial vaccine series to get a booster. What if you’ve already had one or two of the previous boosters? You should also wait at least two months to get the updated one, says the CDC.
But don’t worry too much if it’s been longer since your last booster shot. In fact, research has found that we get better protection if we wait several months after the initial booster shot, notes Dr. Gandhi. “When you’re getting boosters too fast, you’re not as likely to get a robust response as if you give five or six months between boosters,” she says.
What if you caught COVID-19 recently but are due for a booster? You should wait at least three months from when you tested positive before you get the updated booster shot, says the CDC. Why? The antibodies your body made to fight the virus give you some extra protection. But they decrease over time.
Now that flu season is here, you may also be planning to get a flu shot. There’s no need to wait in between a flu shot and a COVID-19 booster. It’s safe, convenient, and effective to get both shots at the same time. And most Blue Shield and Blue Shield Promise plans provide coverage for both at no additional cost to you.
The bottom line on updated boosters: They are worth getting, Dr. Gandhi says. “These bivalent boosters will give you better protection against current strains.” It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor about the right timing for you.
And if you still need a COVID-19 vaccine, schedule it today. Keeping up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines and boosters is key because it protects you and the vulnerable people around you.
Blue Shield is here to help you plan ahead. Our COVID-19 website includes provider locators so you can schedule a booster shot near you. We want to make sure your family gets the shots you need to stay healthy and happy all season long.
What we know about long-term COVID-19 right now
Here’s what scientists have learned so far about the most common lingering effects and how to manage them.
Removing barriers to getting a COVID-19 vaccine
We are working hard with the state to make the vaccines available to everyone.
Why older adults shouldn’t wait to get a COVID-19 vaccine
Getting vaccinated will help protect you from getting the virus.
Addressing COVID-19 concerns in Pacific Islander communities
We answer common questions those in Pacific Islander communities may have.
Addressing COVID-19 vaccine concerns in Indigenous peoples of America communities
We answer common questions those in Indigenous peoples of America communities may have.
Your simple guide to COVID-19 testing
Discover the differences between the two types of diagnostic COVID-19 tests and learn which one may be best for you.
Your 5-step plan to stay safe with diabetes
Now’s the time to double down on good blood sugar control. But that’s not your only safety measure.
6 groups of people who are at higher risk for COVID-19
If you’re an older adult or have underlying conditions, it’s hard not to worry about COVID-19. But knowing the details can help you stay healthy.
Addressing COVID-19 vaccine concerns in Asian communities
We answer common questions those in Asian communities may have.
Addressing COVID-19 vaccine concerns in Black communities
We answer common questions those in Black communities may have.
Addressing COVID-19 vaccine concerns in Hispanic/Latino communities
We answer common questions those in Hispanic/Latino communities may have.
What you need to know about COVID-19 vaccines for teens
Some teens 16 and up are eligible to get the vaccine now.
What to know if you have an ongoing health condition
The vaccines are highly recommended for people with chronic illnesses.
The high-risk people who need the COVID-19 vaccine most
If you’re living with lung disease, hypertension, or diabetes, getting the coronavirus shot is especially important.
Everything you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccines available now
Learn how the three approved shots stack up and find out why all of them can help keep you safe.
Get to know your treatment options for COVID-19
Learn about the latest treatments available for adults and children with mild, moderate, or severe COVID-19.
A parent’s guide to the COVID-19 vaccine
What you need to know to help protect your child from COVID-19.
What everyone with diabetes should know about the COVID-19 vaccines
How long will you wait for a shot? What are the side effects like? Here’s the essential info you need.
Heart disease and COVID-19: Your 5-step plan to help you stay healthy
Now that the coronavirus has your attention, here’s how to help protect yourself.
The future of COVID-19 vaccine research
Here’s what scientists know now about the virus— and what they hope to know soon.
Your biggest questions about flu shots and COVID – answered
Learn how to protect yourself and your family from getting sick this winter.
Helping you – and every community – with COVID-19 support
Here are five ways we’re helping you and your family stay healthy.