The Food and Drug Administration recently approved an updated COVID-19 booster shot. It’s bivalent, meaning it protects against the original version of the virus and the most prevalent Omicron subvariants. The boosters, manufactured by both Pfizer and Moderna, are now being offered at pharmacies and health departments across the Triad. Here's more on how to get one and when.

Who qualifies for this new booster?

According to the CDC, anyone 12 and over who finished their primary COVID-19 vaccine series at least two months ago. People between the ages of 12-17 are only eligible for the Pfizer bivalent booster though. Everyone else can choose between Pfizer and Moderna. 

Should individuals stick with the brand they were originally vaccinated with?

That’s up to you. Dr. Sloan Manning, with Novant Health, says he doesn’t think there’s a lot of data on whether mixing and matching makes a huge difference, efficacy wise. Generally, officials say it’s a good idea to get whichever one is available to you first. 

If someone suspects they’ve already had the Omicron variant, do they need this booster?

The experts say yes. Though, Dr. Manning says there are some mixed opinions about how long you should wait to get the new booster after recovering.

“If you look on the internet, you will probably find some opinions that would recommend waiting a month after recovering from COVID before you get the booster," says Manning. "There's some difference of opinion in that regard. But in general, waiting until you’ve recovered is long enough.”

When should an individual plan to get this booster?

Dr. Manning and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services both say to get the bivalent booster as soon as you’re eligible, which is at least two months after you finish a primary series or get any booster dose. Dr. Manning says it’s just not worth waiting. 

“Get it now," says Manning. "We are seeing plenty of COVID. I am prescribing Paxlovid through telephone or video visits every week. I don't think there is a time to wait for this. I think it's time to get the booster to try to get well. And I think this shot has an excellent chance of preventing winter Omicron."

Dr. Manning got his booster this past Saturday. But Joshua Swift, the director of the Forsyth County Department of Public Health, had a different opinion. He says he understands why people may want to wait until we are closer to winter, when a larger spike is more likely to occur. Or they might have individual health concerns that may impact that choice. 

“I'm probably gonna wait myself," says Swift. "I'm thinking maybe later this month or early October. But I think it's a preference. I think it depends, too. Maybe if you're getting ready to go to a conference in early October, and there's gonna be 800 people, or there's some concerts or things like that that are coming up, you may want just go ahead get that protection.”

Swift says to keep in mind that the full protection of the booster kicks in two weeks after you get it, and that you should plan accordingly. 

How does someone figure out where to get one of these boosters?

The easiest way is to use Vaccines.Gov. There you can type in your zip code, and it’ll ask you which brand of bivalent booster you’re interested in, and then it’ll come up with a list of pharmacies that have that vaccine in stock. Just to be safe, it’s a good idea to call ahead and make sure what you need is available. The Forsyth County Health Department is also offering bivalent boosters. And while appointments aren’t required, they are recommended. Joshua Swift says they’d already seen a slight spike in demand on Thursday, the first day the shots were offered. 

Guilford County isn’t giving bivalent boosters quite yet. A spokesperson says they plan to soon, but didn’t give an exact timeframe. Any updates will likely be posted on their social media pages. 

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