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Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022

What You Need To Know About the Bivalent Vaccine for Protection Against COVID-19

Boosters are still encouraged

The CDC recommends that people ages 12 years and older receive one dose of the updated COVID-19 bivalent booster vaccine if it has been at least two months since their last vaccine dose.

The bivalent vaccines are a combination of the original vaccine strain and the Omicron BA.4/5 variant, the dominant circulating form of SARS- CoV-2. Two mRNA vaccines are available now as bivalent booster doses: the Pfizer bivalent vaccine is for individuals age 12 years and older; the Moderna bivalent vaccine is recommended for 18 years and older. There is no data available to compare the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines directly, so either can be used regardless of which vaccine you may have received previously.

By adding the Omicron BA.4/5 spike protein component to the vaccine, the booster dose helps to restore protection that has waned since the previous vaccination and enhances protection against the BA.4/5 variants that are more transmissible and better at evading immune responses to previous variants.

“The updated COVID-19 boosters are formulated to better protect against the most recently circulating COVID-19 variant. They can help restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination and were designed to provide broader protection against newer variants. This recommendation followed a comprehensive scientific evaluation and robust scientific discussion. If you are eligible, there is no bad time to get your COVID-19 booster, and I strongly encourage you to receive it.” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPF, CDC director.

The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authorization of updated COVID-19 boosters, and the CDC’s recommendation for use, are critical next steps in our country’s vaccination program. This program continues to protect against severe COVID-19 disease and death.

Regarding the safety and effectiveness of bivalent booster doses:

• Bivalent booster doses of both Moderna & Pfizer increase the immune response to the ancestral SARS-CoV-2 variant from 2019.

• Both bivalent boosters demonstrated a superior response to Omicron. They had side effects similar to prior booster doses, such as arm tenderness, lowgrade fever and fatigue for a day or two in 10-20% of recipients.

• The risk of myocarditis/pericarditis (heart inflammation) that has been identified after the primary COVID-19 vaccine series (about 1 in 20,000- 40,000, especially among males aged 12-24) has not been seen with booster doses.

• Most individuals with myocarditis/ pericarditis after the COVID vaccine have fully recovered with no longterm side effects at follow-up.

• The likelihood of serious long-term effects due to COVID-19 infection is significantly reduced by vaccination for both adults and children, including lower rate of blood clots, Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, heart inflammation and postacute symptoms of COVID (PASC), which is also called “Long-COVID.”

• A minimum interval of eight weeks between COVID infection or prior vaccine doses and the bivalent booster dose is recommended to further reduce the risk of potential side effects of the booster dose.

Contact your primary care provider for guidance if you have concerns about getting the COVID-19 Bivalent booster.

Don’t forget that, in addition to vaccines, wearing masks in high-risk environments effectively reduces your risk of COVID-19, influenza and other respiratory viruses this winter.

LSU Health Shreveport offers primary series and the bivalent vaccine Mon. – Fri. at 2726 Linwood Ave. between the hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Dr. John Vanchiere is a professor of medicine and pediatrics, director of community testing and vaccinations and principal investigator for the Pfizer Vaccine Trial in north Louisiana at LSU Health Shreveport.


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