Dr. Hala Saad, QMG Infectious Disease Physician

Two newly updated COVID-19 booster shots are now available in the U.S. The new bivalent boosters are expected to provide increased protection against the omicron variant. We spoke with Dr. Hala Saad, Infectious Disease physician at Quincy Medical Group, to help break down the important details about this new booster and who is eligible.

What makes this booster different from previous boosters?
Previous boosters target the original SARS-CoV2 strain. The new boosters cover the new variants, they are named “bivalent” because they cover both the original strain and the new Omicron BA.4/BA.5 variants.

Who should get the booster?
Who should get the bivalent booster: people ages 12 and older should receive one bivalent mRNA booster after completion of a monovalent primary series; it replaces all prior booster recommendations of this age group.

  • Recommendations for use of a bivalent Moderna booster dose in people ages 18 years and older
  • Recommendations for use of a bivalent Pfizer-BioNTech booster dose in people ages 12 years and older

When should you get the booster?
You should get the booster once you have completed your primary vaccination series with the monovalent vaccine, or a booster dose with monovalent vaccine with a lag period of two months.

How effective are the boosters?
Science and medical communities believe the bivalent boosters will work better in preventing Omicron BA.4/5 infections while keeping the strong protection against severe disease from all COVID-19 strains.

To evaluate the overall effectiveness of bivalent booster vaccines, a clinical study used a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine that targeted both the original strain of COVID-19 as well as a different Omicron subvariant called BA.1. The data from that study were evaluated by the FDA and led to the Emergency Use Authorization for the new bivalent booster.

In the study, researchers found that people who received the BA.1 bivalent booster had a better immune response against COVID-19 Omicron subvariant BA.1 compared with those who received the original (monovalent) booster. The Moderna part of the study evaluated 600 adults age 18 years and older, while the Pfizer-BioNTech part of the study looked at 600 people age 55 and older. Findings from the two studies were similar. (Reference: mskcc.org)

What if I still have more questions?
If you have additional questions about the booster, we recommend speaking to your primary care provider. If you need a primary care provider, we can help you with that. Visit quincymedgroup.com or call our Primary Care Access Line at (217) 222-6550, ext. 3325.