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What you need to know about the updated COVID-19 boosters

A photo illustration of COVID-19 at a cellular level (Getty Images)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sept. 1 recommended Moderna and Pfizer’s updated COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for use among teens and adults in the United States. The updated booster shots received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Aug. 31.

Why do we need additional vaccine booster shots, and what does this mean? Here, VCU Health infectious disease expert Dr. Gonzalo Bearman discusses the need for the updated COVID-19 boosters.

What are the updated booster shots?

These updated vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer provide greater protection against omicron variants. They are bivalent vaccines which means that they combine the original vaccine with one that targets the omicron strains.

Why are updated booster shots necessary?

These updated booster shots are necessary because they provide additional protection against the latest variants of COVID-19 and will be more effective in protecting individuals against infection and disease.

Who is eligible to receive the booster shots?

Updated COVID-19 boosters from Pfizer are recommended for people ages 12 years and older and from Moderna for people ages 18 years and older. Even if you have already received one booster shot, the updated booster is recommended because it is formulated to better protect against the most recently circulating COVID-19 variant. 

What about for children who are younger than 12?

In the coming weeks, the CDC also is expected to recommend updated COVID-19 boosters for other pediatric groups.

Do I have to get the same booster that I received before, or can I "mix and match"?

People ages 18 years and older may get a different booster than they got for their primary vaccinations as long as it’s Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or, in some cases, Johnson & Johnson. Children and teens ages 5 through 17 years who got Pfizer for their initial vaccinations must also get Pfizer for a booster.

Novavax is not authorized for use as a booster dose at this time.

Where can I get the booster shot?

COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots are available at most pharmacies, doctor’s offices and hospitals. For additional vaccine information, visit vdh.virginia.gov.