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New COVID-19 boosters target variants

A woman in scrubs bandages another woman’s arm after a vaccine.

Sept. 19, 2022—The virus that causes COVID-19 has evolved. So has our protection: Bivalent vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna can help give your immune system a boost against the Omicron variant. That's why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is encouraging everyone who is eligible to get the updated shots. Here's what to know.

Why do we need the new boosters?

The virus that causes COVID-19 changes with time. Newer variants spread more easily. And they are better at evading the current vaccines. The bivalent boosters offer protection from the original strain of the virus. But they also target the spike protein that helps the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants infect cells. This is not unlike how experts update the flu shot each year to match the circulating strains. Studies show that the new boosters work better against these newer strains.

Who can get them and when?

People 12 and older who have completed their initial vaccine series can get the new booster if it has been at least two months since their last COVID-19 vaccine—of any type—or booster dose.

People who are 18 and older can choose the Moderna or Pfizer boosters. People ages 12 to 18 can receive the Pfizer booster. CDC will likely recommend bivalent vaccines for younger children in the weeks ahead.

Do I need this even if I'm already boosted?

Yes. You should consider getting the new booster if it has been at least two months since your last vaccine dose.

The new shots should provide better protection from newer Omicron variants. It's also important to remember that vaccine immunity fades with time. Booster shots help to restore this protection.

How many doses do people need?

Just one booster shot is enough to provide protection.

What about kids under 12?

CDC will likely recommend bivalent vaccines for younger children in the weeks ahead. For now, children ages 5 to 11 can get the original booster.

How can I learn more?

If you have questions about COVID-19 vaccines or booster shots, talk to your doctor. They can help you understand the risks and benefits.

You can get more updates about COVID-19 and the latest recommendations in our Coronavirus health topic center.

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