Chicago, Ill. – How successfully can the new bivalent COVID booster doses protect against infection with the most recent variations and mutations, such as the prevalent omicron subvariant BA.5?
While health officials have stated that vaccines continue to provide good protection, particularly against the virus’s most severe effects, researchers are hopeful that the newest injections will go even farther.
On Tuesday, Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, stated, “One of the reasons we’re so happy about this improved COVID vaccination is because, unlike the last year or so, we’re back to having a match.” Again, while it is an excellent match, I would anticipate there to be much increased protection against infection.
However, she emphasizes that no vaccine is 100% effective.
Until recently, COVID-19 vaccines have targeted the original coronavirus strain, despite the emergence of vastly distinct mutations. The new boosters in the United States are combination or “bivalent” shots. They comprise one-half of the original vaccination formula and one-half protection against the most contagious omicron forms to date, BA.4 and BA.5.
The combination is intended to enhance protection against numerous variations.
The FDA’s action modifies the formula of life-saving injections manufactured by Pfizer and rival Moderna, which have already saved millions of lives. It is hoped that the redesigned boosters would prevent another winter surge.
“Right now, there is a 99% correlation between what we are seeing spread and the protection that the vaccination can provide,” Arwady added. “And my concern is that we will miss the opportunity. We will miss the opportunity to be in the best possible shape moving into winter on both an individual and, more crucially, a societal level if people do not opt to upgrade their boosters. I do not know if a new variation will develop in the same manner as omicron did last year. I really hope not, but the protection will be enhanced if more people can be matched to what is already circulating.”
Appointments to obtain the revised vaccinations have increased in Chicago-area pharmacies, as health officials in Illinois urge residents to receive the new dose.
“These new bivalent vaccines are intended to provide further protection against the omicron variations, which are currently the predominant viral strain.” “Dr. Sameer Vohra, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, stated in a release. “The new immunizations offer protection against hospitalization and even death, therefore it is especially critical for people who are at risk for serious outcomes to be current.
Since last week, more than 188,000 Illinois people have received the newly updated bivalent COVID-19 booster vaccine.
As a result of rising demand for bivalent vaccines, the number of daily vaccinations has reached its highest level since February, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health on Friday. In the past week, on average, more than 21,000 daily dosages have been provided, which is double the daily norm for the majority of July.
The vaccination is now the primary dose that will be delivered nationwide to those who are eligible and seeking a booster.
Who is Eligible?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only people who have completed a full COVID vaccine series — consisting of two Moderna or Pfizer injections or one Johnson & Johnson injection — are eligible to get the modified booster. Additionally, the vaccinations have the following age restrictions:
- Individuals 18 and older are eligible to receive either Pfizer’s or Moderna’s updated COVID booster shot
- Only Pfizer booster doses can be administered to those aged 12 through 17
- While those younger than 18 years old are eligible for the new COVID booster, they aren’t eligible for the Moderna dose
Can you mix-and-match?
Here’s the CDC’s guidance on mixing and matching for boosters, based on which shots you have already received.
- People ages 18 years and older may get a different product for a booster than they got for their primary series, as long as it’s Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.
- Teens ages 12-17 years may get a different product for a booster than they got for their primary series, as long as it’s Pfizer-BioNTech.
- Children ages 5 through 11 years who got a Pfizer-BioNTech primary series must also get Pfizer-BioNTech for a booster.
- People ages 12 years and older may only get the updated (bivalent) mRNA (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) booster. They can no longer get an original (monovalent) mRNA booster.
- Novavax is not authorized for use as a booster dose at this time.
The Booster Shot Side Effects
With the release of the long-awaited COVID-19 booster doses designed to target BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants, many individuals preparing for another immunization may be curious about its potential negative effects.
The new boosters may not differ significantly from your previous dose.
Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and member of an independent advisory board to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, told CNBC’s Make It: “We just don’t have any data on this [yet], essentially giving two vaccines in one shot — but biologically, I just wouldn’t expect the side effects, severity, or safety profile of the shots to be different than the current mRNA vaccines and boosters.”
According to the Food and Drug Administration, recipients of the bivalent vaccine “may encounter side effects often described by patients who use permitted or approved monovalent mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.”
The most frequently reported adverse effects among research participants who got the injections were:
- pain, redness or swelling where the shot was administered
- muscle pain
- join pain
- swelling of the lymph nodes in the arm where the shot was given
- nausea or vomiting
The side effects for both Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines were comparable and mirrored those anticipated for earlier dosages.
According to the CDC, the side effects of the third vaccination were “identical to those of the two-dose series.”
Fatigue and soreness at the injection site were the most prevalent complaints, but “the majority of symptoms were mild to moderate.”
As with prior vaccine doses, the CDC advises that “severe adverse effects are uncommon, but may occur.”