More than 450 people are still dying every day from COVID-19. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Communicable Disease Center (CDC) have authorized the new bivalent COVID-19 vaccines as a single booster dose at least two months after primary or booster vaccination, for anyone over 12 years of age (JAMA. Sept 8, 2022). Monovalent mRNA shots are no longer authorized as boosters for people 12 and up.

The bivalent vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer contain two messenger RNA (mRNA) components: one of the original strain of SARS-CoV-2 and the other of the current mutated Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5. Pfizer has presented studies in mice showing that the new bivalent boosters raise neutralizing antibody levels against all of the new Omicron variants and offer robust protection in animals. Pfizer and Moderna are both starting human clinical trials of BA.4/BA.5 boosters this month, but they do not have results at this time.

Why You May Want to Get a Booster Now
We are headed for increased numbers of COVID-19 infections since immunity from having the disease or getting a vaccination (or both) appear to lose their effectiveness rather quickly, and only 30 percent of the U.S. population has taken a booster dose. Winter is coming, with cold weather that will drive people indoors, and COVID-19 is spread primarily from breathing indoor air where people congregate.

The newest BA.5 Omicron mutation makes up 88.7 percent of cases in the U.S., while BA.4 makes up 3.6 percent and BA.4.6 makes up 7.5 percent of cases. Research in people infected with BA.4 or BA.5 has demonstrated robust protection against a variety of other variants, including BA.1, Delta and Beta.

Reported side effects from the vaccines include injection site pain, redness and swelling, lymph node swelling in the arm of the injection, chills, fever, fatigue, headache, muscle or joint pain, and nausea or vomiting.

Where to Get a Booster
You can get the new boosters at local pharmacies, physicians’ offices and vaccine centers operated by state and local health officials. The U.S. government has already purchased more than 170 million doses of the two vaccines and the new vaccines are usually free of charge. More than 200 million people are eligible for the new shots. Check with your local pharmacy, or your state’s health department website, or (Use the search filter for “newly authorized bivalent” booster options).