Updated Sept. 26, 2022—With the rise of new, highly contagious COVID-19 variants, and an updated COVID-19 vaccine just approved in the U.S., there have been a lot of questions about COVID boosters. Valley compiled the latest recommendations from health authorities and our own Infectious Diseases team to put all the answers in one place.
1. I heard the newest version of the vaccine is more effective against Omicron subvariants. When should I get the new booster?
On August 31, the FDA approved the use of new versions of the vaccine from Pfizer and Moderna for use in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director and a panel of CDC advisers recommended use of the new versions of the vaccine on September 1.
The new vaccine versions are known as “bivalent” vaccines, and target both the original COVID strain as well as the Omicron subvariants. The CDC is now recommending that everyone who is eligible receives an updated COVID-19 booster. CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky said, “If you are eligible, there is no bad time to get your COVID-19 booster and I strongly encourage you to receive it.”
2. When am I eligible for a booster shot?
The CDC currently says you are considered up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines if you’ve received a primary series and the most recent booster dose recommended for you. The updated bivalent vaccine booster is recommended from Pfizer-BioNTech for people 12 years old and older and from Moderna for people 18 years old and older. You can get the updated booster as soon as two months from your primary series or most recent booster shot.
Those who have already had two boosters, including those aged 50 and over and people who are immunocompromised, are eligible to receive the updated bivalent vaccine, as long as it has been two months or longer since their last booster.
Children between the ages of 5 and 11 are not eligible for the new boosters, but can receive the original Pfizer booster if they received the Pfizer vaccine for their primary series. Currently, the CDC doesn’t recommend any COVID-19 boosters for children between the ages of 6 months and four years.
Read more about the CDC’s recommended booster schedule here or get guidance on the bivalent vaccine boosters from the FDA.
The CDC recommends additional booster doses for people who are immunocompromised. You can read more about those recommendations here.
3. If I recently got a booster shot, will I be able to get an updated booster that’s geared toward the Omicron subvariants?
The Biden administration has stressed that eligible adults who get a booster shot now should be able to get the updated version of the booster after it becomes available in the U.S. However, the length of time since your last dose will likely impact how soon you are eligible for the new vaccine. Current guidance is that you can get the updated booster two months after your last COVID-19 shot.
4. Do I still need a booster if I just had COVID?
According to the CDC, you may consider delaying your booster shot by up to 3 months after testing positive for COVID-19 or from when your symptoms started, as you are unlikely to be reinfected during that time. However, you may choose to receive your booster sooner because of other factors, including your own risk of severe disease or the level of COVID-19 in your community. People who have had a COVID-19 infection and are up-to-date on their vaccinations, including boosters, have the highest protection of all against disease, as well as severe disease.
People with COVID-19 should delay receiving any vaccine, including the COVID-19 vaccine or booster, until after recovering and completing your isolation period.
5. Where can I get the updated bivalent booster shot?
As of Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, Valley is now able to offer the new, bivalent COVID-19 booster for patients who already see a Valley primary care provider. You can make an appointment for a booster by calling your primary care provider’s office.
Appointments are limited, and we still encourage patients to use community pharmacies when possible. Patients can find a vaccine location close to them at the Vaccine Locator website.
Public Health – Seattle & King County is now offering free bivalent booster shots at its Eastgate Public Health Center and Auburn Outlet Collection Mall Vaccine Clinics. You can get updates on Public Health’s COVID-19 vaccine page.
The Washington Department of Health said an initial allocation of 191,100 bivalent booster doses was headed to providers throughout the state and expected to be available after the Labor Day holiday. The DOH asks people to remain patient in the coming weeks. You can visit the Vaccine Locator or call the COVID-19 Information Hotline at 1-800-525-0127 to find available resources near you.
Many commercial pharmacies are now also offering the updated bivalent vaccine.
6. If I need a booster, does that mean the vaccine isn’t working?
No. The current COVID vaccine is still considered very effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death. But researchers are seeing reduced protection over time against mild and moderate illness.
7. With all the COVID mutations, does the current version of the vaccine still protect me?
Yes. Staying up-to-date on your COVID vaccination is still considered the most important way to protect you against getting severe COVID symptoms or being hospitalized. A study released last month showed a significant increase in protection against Omicron subvariants for those who received a booster vaccine. Those who receive the updated bivalent booster are expected to have even greater protection, as it also targets the highly contagious Omicron variants.
8. Can I get a COVID booster at the same time as I get my flu shot?
Yes. There is no recommended waiting period between getting a COVID vaccine and any other vaccine, including a flu shot.
9. Is anyone offering one shot that contains both a flu shot and a COVID booster?
Not at this time. Scientists are working on it, though!
10. Will I need a COVID booster every year going forward, like a flu shot?
This is expected to eventually become the recommendation. On Sept. 6, White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha told reporters, “We are moving to a point where a single annual COVID shot should provide a high degree of protection against serious illness all year.”
11. Are the COVID vaccine and boosters safe if I’m pregnant or lactating?
Yes. Studies show that COVID vaccines are safe during pregnancy, and they are recommended for people who are pregnant, lactating, or planning to get pregnant. In fact, some research shows that your baby can get COVID-19 antibodies through pregnancy and lactation, if you are vaccinated. Studies suggest that babies who do get COVID do better if the birthing parents are vaccinated than those whose birthing parents were not vaccinated. Pregnant people who are unvaccinated are also more likely to experience pregnancy complications if they test positive for COVID. Pregnant people are also more likely to experience severe symptoms from COVID-19. Read more here.
12. Does the vaccine cause any long-term side effects?
Experts continue to monitor COVID vaccines for safety concerns, but so far, any serious or long-term reactions are very rare. Almost all reactions have been mild and only last a few days. For vaccines in general, long-term side effects usually happen within eight weeks of vaccination. You can read more here about what we know about long-term side effects of the vaccine.
Additional information on COVID-19 vaccines and boosters: