How well will the new bivalent COVID booster shots protect against infection from the new variants and mutations, including the now-dominant omicron subvariant BA.5?
While health officials have said vaccines continue to show effective protection, especially when it comes to severe consequences from the virus, experts hope new vaccines could go even further.
“One of the reasons we’re really excited about this updated COVID vaccine is that unlike a year or so ago, we’re back to having a game,” the health department commissioner said on Tuesday. public of Chicago, Dr. Allison Arwady. “So this updated vaccine – kind of like in the beginning those early vaccines were highly protective, we weren’t seeing a lot of breakthrough…even now even though it’s a good game, I would expect that there is much more protection against infection as well.”
She notes, however, that no vaccine is 100%.
Until now, COVID-19 vaccines have targeted the original coronavirus strain, although wildly different mutants have emerged. The new American boosters are combined or “bivalent” shots. They contain half the original vaccine recipe and half the protection against the latest versions of omicron, called BA.4 and BA.5, which are considered the most contagious to date.
The combination aims to increase cross-protection against multiple variants.
The FDA decision changes the recipe for injections made by Pfizer and rival Moderna that have already saved millions of lives. The hope is that the modified boosters will mitigate yet another winter surge.
“We’re back right now to a 99% match between what we see spreading and the protection the vaccine can provide,” Arwady said. “And I’m afraid we’re missing the window. People won’t choose to get this updated booster and we’ll miss the opportunity on an individual level, but more importantly on a societal level to be in the best possible shape. as winter approaches I don’t know if we’re going to see a new variant emerge like omicron did last year I certainly hope not but the more people there will be that can be matched to what is circulating now, the better the protection will be.”
Appointments to receive updated vaccines are increasing at Chicago-area pharmacies, with Illinois health officials urging community members to get the new dose.
“These new bivalent vaccines are designed to provide additional protection against omicron variants, which are now the dominant strain of the virus,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Sameer Vohra, in a press release. important for those at risk of serious consequences, as updated vaccines provide protection against hospitalization and even death.
More than 188,000 Illinois residents received one dose of the newly updated COVID-19 bivalent booster shots last week.
Due to the growing demand for bivalent vaccines, the number of daily vaccinations has reached its highest level since February, the Illinois Department of Public Health said Friday. More than 21,000 daily doses have been administered, on average, over the past week, double the daily average for most of the summer.
The vaccine is now the first vaccine that will be given to those who are eligible and looking to be strengthened across the country.
Who is eligible?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only those who have completed a full COVID vaccine series — which consists of two Moderna or Pfizer shots, or one Johnson & Johnson shot — are eligible to receive the modified booster. Additionally, the plans have certain age restrictions, which are listed below:
- People 18 and older are eligible to receive the updated COVID reminder from Pfizer or Moderna
- Only Pfizer booster doses can be given to people aged 12 to 17
- Although those under 18 are eligible for the new COVID booster, they are not eligible for the dose of Moderna
Can you mix and match?
Here’s the CDC’s advice on mixing and matching boosters, based on the shots you’ve already received.
- People 18 and older can get a different product for a booster than they got for their main series, as long as it’s from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.
- Teens ages 12-17 can get a different product for a booster than they got for their main series, as long as it’s Pfizer-BioNTech.
- Children 5-11 years old who received a Pfizer-BioNTech primary series should also get Pfizer-BioNTech for a booster.
- Individuals 12 years and older can only receive the updated (bivalent) mRNA booster (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna). They can no longer get an original (monovalent) mRNA recall.
- Novavax is not cleared for use as a booster dose at this time.
The side effects of the booster shot
With the arrival of the long-awaited COVID-19 booster shots intended to target the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants, many may be curious about its possible side effects as they prepare for another vaccination.
It turns out that new reminders may not be much different from your last dose.
“We just don’t have any data on that. [yet]essentially giving two vaccines in one injection – but biologically I just wouldn’t expect the side effects, severity or safety profile of the injections to be any different from current mRNA vaccines and boosters,” said said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a member of an independent advisory panel for the United States Food and Drug Administration, told CNBC Make It.
The FDA states that those who receive the bivalent vaccine “may experience side effects commonly reported by individuals who receive licensed or approved monovalent COVID-19 mRNA vaccines.”
Among the side effect study participants who received the most commonly reported injections were:
- pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site
- muscle pain
- join the pain
- swollen lymph nodes in the arm where the shot was given
- nausea or vomiting
Side effects were similar for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines and largely reflect the side effects expected for earlier doses.
The CDC said side effects from the third shot were also “similar to the two-dose series.”
The most common symptoms then included fatigue and pain at the injection site, but “most symptoms were mild to moderate”.
As with previous doses of the vaccine, the CDC notes that “serious side effects are rare, but can occur.”