Updated COVID-19 boosters target omicron variants

Sep 2 8:00am | Jennifer O'Hara | @jenohara | Comments (6)

The first significant change to COVID-19 vaccines since their rollout came this week as the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for updated Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 boosters aimed at the omicron variants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also signed off on the recommendation, clearing the way for the new COVID-19 booster to be administered.

The new boosters are bivalent vaccines, meaning they target more than one strain of the virus. The new formulation targets the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron variants, in addition to the original coronavirus strain. BA.5 is responsible for nearly 90% of all new COVID-19 cases in the U.S., according to the CDC.

The Pfizer bivalent booster is approved for people 12 and up if they have already received their primary COVID-19 vaccine series and it has been at least two months since their last vaccine dose. The Moderna bivalent booster is available on the same timeline to people 18 and up.

"This booster recommendation is in anticipation that there will be yet another surge as college students, grade school and high school students are gathering back together," explains Dr. Gregory Poland, head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group. "We're also preparing for cooler weather, meaning more indoor activities, family gatherings and the holidays — often without masks, unfortunately. We still need to take COVID seriously."

Another big concern for vaccine experts is the upcoming flu season. The Southern Hemisphere is often an indicator of what's to come for the U.S. Australia's flu season exceeded its five-year average, particularly affecting children under age 5, according to a recent report.

Experts worry that the relaxing of masking and social distancing recommendations that were in place for COVID-19 purposes the past two winters will be a factor. These measures also protected people from the flu.

"When cold weather moves us indoors, a high viral circulation occurs in schools and other indoor settings. I think we are very likely to see a bad flu year," says Dr. Poland. "Now I know we've been predicting that for two years, but for the most part, people wore masks and it didn't happen. I don't think that'll be the case this year. People are not wearing masks, and we are very likely to get hit hard by influenza."

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Poland discusses the latest COVID-19 news and touches on other news, including monkeypox, polio and the upcoming flu season.

To practice safe social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, this interview was conducted using video conferencing. The sound and video quality are representative of the technology used. For the safety of its patients, staff and visitors, Mayo Clinic has strict masking policies in place. Anyone shown without a mask was recorded prior to COVID-19 or recorded in an area not designated for patient care, where social distancing and other safety protocols were followed.

Read the full transcript.

Research disclosures for Dr. Gregory Poland.

Connect with others talking about the pandemic and supporting one another in the COVID-19 support group.

Information in this post was accurate at the time of its posting. Due to the fluid nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientific understanding, along with guidelines and recommendations, may have changed since the original publication date.

For more information and all your COVID-19 coverage, go to the Mayo Clinic News Network and mayoclinic.org.

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I have missed these podcasts. But I can understand how much work they entail, especially for very busy professionals such as these doctors. Thanks for all the information and guidance on how to avoid getting Covid. I’m sorry that a segment of our population did not have the wisdom or will to listen to you.


I am having shoulder replacement in 3 wks. Its been over 6 months since getting 1st covid booster. Should I get the new booster before my surgery or wait until after it? Thanks!!


I've had 4 shots for Covid and my oncologist asked me if I was interested in, Evusheld. Has anyone had this treatment?


Great information dissemination on this podcast…thanks,

Here is a question: So far I have taken 5 Pfizer shots and my covid antibody level is 5998u/mL ..

now that bivalent vaccine is on the horizon .. not sure if the current level of antibodies is it ok to take the bivalent shot (assuming the current value of 5998u /mL will reduce in a month's time. Any insights will be valuable. btw: one more data point my WBC/Neutro/Lympho/Baso/Eso are in range


These podcasts have been remarkably enlightening. I think I am keeping up with Covid-19 information and Greg always shares things I have not read or heard elsewhere. Thanks so much. I hope folks outside the Mayo community are able to find these discussions.


These podcasts have been remarkably enlightening. I think I am keeping up with Covid-19 information and Greg always shares things I have not read or heard elsewhere. Thanks so much. I hope folks outside the Mayo community are able to find these discussions.

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I have seen his podcasts on Facebook, and he is often quoted in the media.

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