A lot has changed since the first COVID-19 vaccines, and you might be confused or have vaccine fatigue. Mount Nittany Health recommends that patients strongly consider getting the updated booster shot as soon as they are eligible. The vaccine will provide the best protection from Omicron and previous variants. Here's why.
The COVID-19 virus has changed since we first learned about it. It will continue to evolve, so it's important to have the latest protection against it. Because the Omicron variant and its subvariants are so different from the original strain, we are seeing patients who get COVID-19 despite prior vaccinations or prior COVID-19 infection. The difference between the vaccines released this fall and previous vaccines is that they now offer protection from two virus strains – the original virus and Omicron. The technology used is the same as the original vaccine, but it will boost your protection from the original variant and protect you from the Omicron variant as well as subvariants of Omicron that are circulating in the country. This is the same strategy that goes into your annual flu vaccinations that offer protection against four influenza viruses expected to be in circulation this flu season.
Medical experts believe the bivalent booster will better prevent Omicron and protect against severe disease from all strains. Since the Omicron variant is expected to evolve, teaching your immune system how to fight it is vitally important. Studies have shown that those who have received the bivalent booster had a better immune response than those who only had the original booster.
The new bivalent vaccine is made in the same way the original booster was made, so there's good reason to believe they are safe. Those who have received the bivalent booster have experienced similar side effects as the original vaccine and nothing different from it. The FDA continues to monitor safety data to be sure they can still stand behind COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness.
To get the new vaccine, you need to have received one or more booster shots, but the bivalent shot cannot be the first COVID-19 vaccination you receive. There needs to be a two-month gap since your last booster and a 90-day gap if you recently tested positive for COVID-19. The Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent booster is authorized for people as young as five and the Moderna version is authorized for people six and older.
Mount Nittany Health also recommends that older people, those with compromised immune systems, and cancer patients receive the new bivalent vaccine to protect against severe illness and hospitalization. The vaccine is also safe for those who are pregnant, expect to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding.
Finally, remember to get your flu vaccine this year as well. Receiving your flu vaccine simultaneously as the bivalent booster is safe. Mixing and matching is also safe if your pharmacy has a different vaccine brand than you had last time.
Mount Nittany Health is committed to caring for our community. You can help – get the COVID-19 vaccine and help stop the spread. Patients of Mount Nittany Physician Group can schedule an appointment with their primary care provider for the first vaccination or booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Please call 814.278.4600 to schedule an appointment.