Both Pfizer and Moderna now have new bivalent COVID boosters that target not only the original strain of coronavirus, but also the highly contagious omicron subvariants that dominate across the country.
These booster shots are readily available at pharmacies and doctor’s offices across the United States. You can get one if you are at least two months away from your last COVID shot or two months away from a COVID infection.
“[These] vaccines are widely available,” said Dr. Laolu Fayanju, Ohio-based family medicine specialist at Oak Street Health. “We are a long way from the early days of 2021, when vaccines had just been rolled out.”
But if you notice that your local pharmacy only has one type of vaccine available (either only Pfizer vaccines or only Moderna vaccines), do you need to look elsewhere to find the same vaccine manufacturer you had the last time ? Here’s what you need to know:
Adults can receive either bivalent booster.
According to Dr. Onyema Ogbuagu, infectious disease specialist and associate professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine, just like with the last COVID booster, you can get the Pfizer vaccine or the Moderna vaccine, whichever vaccine you got. for your primary vaccination or your last booster.
“We have seen that there is no harm from previous studies of mRNA mixing and pairing [vaccines]they are part of the same approach with subtle differences,” Ogbuagu said.
So if your local pharmacy only gives Pfizer pictures, there’s no reason to go far and wide for Moderna – or vice versa. You are good at getting either shot. “Everyone should feel comfortable getting the Pfizer vaccine after Moderna and Moderna after Pfizer,” Ogbuagu said.
However, keep in mind that this only applies to people over the age of 18. The Moderna bivalent booster is currently not authorized for ages 12-17. People between the ages of 12 and 17 can only get the Pfizer booster. Fayanju noted that it’s perfectly safe for people in this category to get the Pfizer booster even if they’ve only had Moderna injections before.
There may even be benefits to mixing and matching your photo.
Research on previous booster shots has shown that mixing and matching your vaccine manufacturer can provide a stronger immune response than sticking with the vaccine manufacturer you originally got. Experts suspect the same is true for bivalent firing.
Additionally, previous studies show that the Moderna vaccine produces a higher immune response than the Pfizer vaccine. This is probably due to differences in the dosage of each injection. According to Ogbuagu, Pfizer’s shot is 30 micrograms and Moderna’s shot is 50 micrograms, “so there’s [are] differences in the number of antigens used,” he said.
The higher dosage of the Moderna vaccine links it to this higher antibody response. But keep in mind that the overall amount of additional protection is nominal – both injections provide protection against serious consequences such as hospitalization and death.
If you have Johnson & Johnson for your primary vaccine, you will need to switch manufacturers for your booster.
People who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were also always recommended to follow it up with an mRNA booster, Ogbuagu said.
In the case of the bivalent booster, there’s no Johnson & Johnson equivalent, so it’s perfectly fine (and the only option) for those who’ve had the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to get the Pfizer bivalent booster or Moderna.
If you are unsure, talk to your doctor.
Your doctor will know what is best for you based on your medical history. For example, some doctors may encourage men between the ages of 18 and 39 to get the Pfizer booster instead of Moderna if it’s available. In very rare cases, the Moderna vaccine has caused temporary heart problems in men in this age group. But, according to the American Heart Association, getting COVID-19 is far more likely to lead to heart problems than the Moderna vaccine — so it’s still a good idea for people in this category to get the bivalent booster.
The bottom line is that both hits are great ways to protect yourself from omicron’s dominant subvariants. You really can’t go wrong with either – the best approach is to get the one you can get as soon as possible.
Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available at the time of publication, but advice may change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most current recommendations.