New COVID-19 boosters set for pharmacies, clinics nationwide

Doctor says COVID-19 may have seasonal surges, much like the flu

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The updated COVID-19 boosters, signed off on by the FDA and CDC last week, are shipping out to pharmacies and clinics across the country.

These boosters are designed to target the original strain of COVID-19, as well as the omicron subvariants.

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Dr. Salma Elfaki is a pediatrician in Lake Nona. Her clinic, Nona Pediatric Center, is expecting to get their shipment of the updated booster as soon as this week.

“This is good news obviously because we are continuing to fight this disease,” said Dr. Elfaki.

The updated doses are known as “bivalent” vaccines. According to the FDA, they “contain two messenger RNA (mRNA) components of SARS-CoV-2 virus: one of the original strain of SARS-CoV-2 and the other one in common between the BA.4 and BA.5 lineages of the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2.”

Moderna’s updated booster is authorized for use in people ages 18 and older. Pfizer’s is for people ages 12 and older.

According to CDC guidelines, a single booster dose can be administered at least two months after a person’s most recent COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Elfaki says the updated doses replace previous booster recommendations for people ages 12 years and older. That means that everyone ages 5 and older who are eligible for a booster dose will now only be eligible for one booster dose.

The hope is this update booster will be more effective at targeting the most common strains in circulation right now. It could protect more people ahead of a possible surge this fall.

“We saw an uptick in infections now that school has started,” said Dr. Elfalki. “As you know, schools are no longer mandating masks.”

“Typically, we start to see a rise in flu infections, usually after the holidays they’ve traveled, spent time in airports, with family, so we see a rise in influenza. So I anticipate if things continue the way that they are, we will probably see a COVID surge again,” Dr. Elfalki said.

The flu season is also ahead as Labor Day comes to an end, marking an unofficial end to summer. It’s possible future COVID boosters will follow the flu vaccine’s example and come with annual updates that target specific strains.

“I imagine that if things continue the way that they are and we see a new strain pop up every couple of months, then yes, this might be the scenario we are dealing with with the flu shot,” said Dr. Elfalki.

Doctors say people can get a flu shot at the same time as the new booster shot this fall.

Both CVS and Walgreens have said they will have appointments available for the updated booster in the coming days and weeks.

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About the Author:

Catherine, born and raised in Central Florida, joined News 6 in April 2022.