Vaccines and Boosters: Where Are We Today?
Not sure if you need an updated booster? Confused about what an updated booster is? We can help.
My mom was sure there was a new booster this spring. “The CDC said I should get an updated booster” my mom told me, “so there must be a new one.” That assumption was a common misunderstanding, because the guidelines were new, but the vaccine was not.
“Updated” vaccines are the ones designed to work against both the original strain of the virus and two of the Omicron variants. They are sometimes also called “bivalent” vaccines. Pfizer and Moderna each introduced their own version last fall. If you’ve gotten a COVID vaccine since September 2022, you’ve already had an updated vaccine. (Check your COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card if you’re not sure.)
Anyone who has not gotten an updated vaccine yet should get one.
You need it to stay up to date on your COVID vaccines. And with an updated vaccine, you’re much better protected against severe disease and death than if you’ve only had “original” vaccines (i.e., that only protect against the original strain) — or if you haven’t gotten a vaccine at all.
I already got one updated vaccine. Should I get another one?
As we’ve come to expect, the answer is “it depends.” The CDC isn’t actually “recommending” an additional booster for anyone yet. Instead, it’s “allowing” a booster for people in certain groups. If you’re in one of those groups, though, you should strongly consider it, since you have a higher risk of severe COVID than everyone else.
An additional updated booster is allowed if you (are over the age of six and):
Are over 65 (and it has been four months since your last vaccine), AND/OR
Are moderately or severely immunocompromised.
If you did not find yourself in the list above, your risk of severe effects from COVID is low for the moment.
There may also be new boosters available in the fall 2023, so if you are considering a spring booster, you should get it soon, so you’ll be eligible again for whatever the fall brings.
There used to be other vaccines. Where did they go?
Pfizer and Moderna are the only vaccine makers to offer the updated vaccines and boosters. They aren’t even allowed to offer their original vaccines anymore, because the updated vaccine is so much more effective against the current strains of the virus.
For the rare few who are medically advised against getting either Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccines, Novovax (which is a different kind of vaccine) still offers a vaccine against the original virus. It is better than nothing, but will not provide as much protection as the updated vaccines.
Beginning in May 2023, the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is no longer available in the US.
Though the Public Health Emergency has ended, COVID has not gone away. And because COVID is ever-changing, we can expect that our vaccines and the guidance about them will continue to evolve as well. Let us help keep you up to speed with these takeaway for Spring:
There were new guidelines this spring; not new vaccines.
If you haven’t received an “updated” booster (since Sep 2022), you should get one.
If you are over 65 and/or are moderately or severely immunocompromised, consider whether to get a second updated booster.