Everything you need to know about the Omicron COVID booster

The FDA just approved updated jabs from Moderna and Pfizer.

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The U.S. approved updated COVID-19 boosters.

On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration authorized updates to both Moderna and Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccines.

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The updated boosters are “bivalent,” meaning they provide protection from the original COVID-19 strain and the Omicron variant.

Heading into fall, this is super important.

Omicron is behind most of the current COVID cases in the U.S.

94.1 million

Number of reported coronavirus cases in the U.S. since the pandemic began. More than 1 million people have died.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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Boosters are essential for continued protection from the virus.

According to the CDC, less than half of fully vaccinated Americans got a first booster dose, and only a third of eligible people got a second.

But, even if you’re young, healthy, and have had COVID previously, experts stress that you should continue to get boosted, as BuzzFeed News reported.

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The COVID-19 vaccines, including boosters, continue to save countless lives and prevent the most serious outcomes (hospitalization and death) of COVID-19.

Are the Omicron boosters safe if they didn’t undergo human trials?

These boosters follow the same process as flu vaccines, which get reformulated every year based on the strains scientists find circulating. Given that the Omicron-specific boosters weren’t changed significantly from the prior COVID vaccines, they don’t need to undergo new trials, per Science.

While some experts believe human trials should be done prior to distribution, that’s more about determining how much more effective the bivalent formulation is than what we already have than it is about safety.

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“It’s not that I don’t think it could work,” Michael Osterholm, epidemiologist and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told CNBC. “But I think we need the data first to show that the immune response to this vaccine is equivalent to or better than what we have already.”

But other experts, including CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, believe it’s riskier to wait for that data.

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The new boosters aren’t available just yet.

A CDC advisory panel will meet to discuss the vaccines this week. But The New York Times reported they may be available after Labor Day.

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Who is eligible for an updated booster?

The CDC also has yet to release recommendations for who should get the Omicron booster right away. But we do know that:

Pfizer’s updated booster is authorized for anyone 12 or older. You have to be at least 18 for Moderna.

Both require that you received your initial vaccination or booster shot at least two months ago.

Where will the Omicron boosters be available?

Think: pharmacies, community health centers, and the like.

Unfortunately, many vaccination clinics across the country have closed, but you can check vaccine.gov to locate a site near you.

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Should I wait or get boosted now?

This unfortunately isn’t black and white — and it’s best to consult your doctor if you’re unsure.

That said, as Ali Mokdad, chief strategy officer for population health at the University of Washington, told BuzzFeed News, if you haven’t been boosted at all yet — and especially if you’re immunocompromised — you should get whichever booster is available to you right now.

If you received your first booster, you’re under 50, and you’re pretty healthy, you can probably wait.

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