When to get the updated COVID-19 booster
Updated booster shots are here. Learn when is a good time to schedule one – and how to maximize your protection.
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.
The guidelines are slightly different for kids. Right now, all kids 12 to 17 can only get the updated Pfizer booster. Children 5 to 11 who got the Pfizer vaccine should also get a booster shot – but not the updated one. This group should receive the original “monovalent” booster, says the CDC. And kids 5 to 11 who got the Moderna vaccine are not eligible for a booster at this time.
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.
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