Now Is a Really, Really Good Time to Get That COVID-19 Booster!
Happy New Year! During a time of goal-setting and resolution-making, many people ask me what they can do to optimize their health in January. Right now one of my top tips is to make a plan to get your bivalent COVID-19 booster shot if you haven’t already- and as soon as possible.
What Is a “Bivalent” Vaccine?
A “bivalent” COVID-19 vaccine includes a component of the original strain, as well as a component of the omicron variant viruses (In contrast, most influenza vaccines are “quadrivalent” and include components of 4 different strains of influenza viruses). While the original “monovalent” vaccines provided good protection against severe disease and death from newer variants, we weren’t surprised to see the effectiveness of the vaccine wane over time. These bivalent vaccines were updated to provide better protection by being better matched to the predominant viruses circulating, and to also boost immunity that wanes over time after the original monovalent vaccine.
The uptake of the new vaccines has been lackluster over the last few months. It’s estimated that only 15-20% of eligible people have received one. The bivalent COVID-19 vaccine was originally authorized in September for 12 years old and up, and now is authorized down to age 6 months. When the bivalent COVID-19 booster was first authorized, we didn’t have much real-world data on how effective it would prove to be. Since then, in the last few months, two studies have demonstrated that these boosters do have effectiveness in the real world.
One study showed that the bivalent booster provides additional protection against symptomatic infection – reducing the risk of a symptomatic infection by around 30-50% in people who had received a bivalent vaccine compared to those who had only received the monovalent vaccines. Another study showed that receiving a bivalent booster reduces the risk of hospitalization by around 40% compared to those who had only monovalent vaccines and around 60% compared to those who are unvaccinated.
Why Is It Really a Good Time To Get Your Booster?
An alphabet soup (isn’t XBB.1.5 quite a mouthful!?) of new omicron descendants are on the horizon. These variants appear to be even more contagious than previous variants – so I won’t be surprised if we see another surge of cases in the next few weeks and see this variant spreading quickly. By getting the bivalent booster and topping up your immunity to the omicron variants you’ll be better protected against infection and severe disease. Yes, we are going to see breakthrough infections, and some of them severe, even in those who are boosted. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth it to get your booster – so make a plan today to schedule your vaccine at your local pharmacy to keep your 2023 off to a healthy start!
Link-Gelles R, Ciesla AA, Fleming-Dutra KE, et al. Effectiveness of Bivalent mRNA Vaccines in Preventing Symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 Infection — Increasing Community Access to Testing Program, United States, September–November 2022. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2022;71:1526–1530. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7148e1
 Tenforde MW, Weber ZA, Natarajan K, et al. Early Estimates of Bivalent mRNA Vaccine Effectiveness in Preventing COVID-19–Associated Emergency Department or Urgent Care Encounters and Hospitalizations Among Immunocompetent Adults — VISION Network, Nine States, September–November 2022. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2022;71:1616–1624. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm715152e1