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COVID Omicron Boosters Fall 2022: What to Know About the Updated Vaccines

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The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized updated COVID boosters for emergency use to try to reduce the impact of highly contagious variants. The reformulated boosters, manufactured by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech respectively, will target the original strain of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, as well as a strain found in omicron’s BA.4 and BA.5 variants. BA.5 is currently responsible for nearly 89% of COVID-19 cases in the US, and BA.4 accounts for about 4%, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The updated boosters, called bivalent vaccines, can be administered at least two months after a primary COVID-19 vaccine series or previous booster dose, according to an FDA statement. The updated Moderna vaccine is authorized for any person that is at least 18 years old, while the updated Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can be given to anyone as young as 12 years old. You can get either booster regardless of which FDA-approved COVID vaccine you received in the past. (In other words, you can get the updated Moderna booster even if you previously received the Pfizer-BioNTech primary series or vice versa.)

The government has secured 105 million doses of the updated Pfizer-BioNTech boosters and 66 million of the updated Moderna booster, per the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Deliveries of both are expected in early fall, and statements from HHS released in June and July note that the updated vaccines are expected to be free.

As with the previous COVID vaccines, the updated booster shots are considered to be safe and effective based on the available data we have, although it’s unclear how much more protective this dose will be. “We know the likelihood of any serious adverse events outweighs the benefit of getting the vaccine,” Bernard Camins, MD, professor of medicine and infectious diseases at Mount Sinai in New York, tells SELF. As expected, you may experience short-lived side effects, such as pain and swelling at the injection site, and flu-like symptoms including headache, fatigue, body aches, and chills.

The authorization comes as the US prepares for a potential rise in infections as colder weather approaches. “As we head into fall and begin to spend more time indoors, we strongly encourage anyone who is eligible to consider receiving a booster dose with a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine to provide better protection against currently circulating variants,” FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, MD, said in the statement.

There are plenty of reasons to get an updated booster, even if you tested positive for the virus recently, Dr. Camins says. First, getting vaccinated and boosted will help reduce your chances of getting sick in the coming months, regardless of whether you’ve been infected with COVID in the past; that’s really important, since experts aren’t sure what the potential health implications of continuous reinfection may be.

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Plus, you want to do everything you can to reduce your risk of long COVID, Dr. Camins says. “Being previously infected doesn’t necessarily protect you from long COVID,” should you get re-infected this fall, he explains. As many as one in five people may develop long COVID, SELF previously reported, which can lead to life-altering complications like cardiovascular health issues, overwhelming fatigue, and neurological symptoms, among many others that can severely impact a person’s mental and physical health.

Source: Self

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