When can I get the updated COVID booster? What we know so far.

Update 9/2/22: The CDC approved and recommends the updated (bivalent) booster vaccines. We expect to have the updated booster shots available at our vaccination site at the Auburn Outlet Collection Mall starting Friday, September 9, unless the vaccine shipment arrival changes.

An updated booster shot of COVID-19 vaccine is just around the corner. Today the FDA authorized updated booster vaccines for emergency use, but there are still a few steps left in the approval process. Expert panels will review the applications from Pfizer and Moderna for these new booster vaccines at the end of this week and if they decide to recommend them, the updated Omicron-specific boosters could be available late next week.

Nothing is ever final until the experts weigh in and the CDC makes its recommendations and issues new guidance. But in anticipation of an updated booster, here is what we know so far:

The new booster shot will target Omicron variants and the original strain of COVID-19.

The updated COVID booster works like the annual flu shot. In the same way that the flu shot targets the expected flu strains for each upcoming season, this new COVID booster shot will specifically target the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants that are spreading widely. It will also target the original strain of COVID-19 that is in the current COVID-19 vaccine. It’s called a “bi-valent” vaccine, which means that it targets two strains of a virus.

The new booster vaccines have the same basic ingredients as the current vaccine, but with an updated spike protein.

The updated part of the vaccine will be a little change in the spike protein that’s used to tailor it to the new Omicron variants. Otherwise, the basic ingredients are the same as the COVID-19 vaccine that many millions of people have already received.

We expect to offer the new booster the weekend of September 9.

The applications will be reviewed by the CDC’s independent expert panel on September 1, and if they recommend the vaccines, then the CDC will make the final determinations regarding the use of these boosters. In addition, an independent panel from the Western states will do a review. It could take a few more days for CDC recommendations and guidance to be ready.  If the CDC recommends the vaccines, doses will start to ship to the states after Labor Day.

We expect to have the new booster doses available at our vaccination sites at the Auburn Outlet Collection Mall on the weekend of September 9th. However, delays in shipping are possible, so it could be later. Vaccination providers will also need time to update their processes according to new CDC guidance for the booster, so vaccination sites may vary in when they are able to start offering the new booster.

The vaccines are for people 12 years and older

Both Pfizer and Moderna have produced updated booster vaccines. Pfizer’s updated booster vaccine is for people 12 years and older. Moderna’s is for people 18 years and older.

You need to have your first COVID-19 vaccination series before you can get the updated booster shot.

These vaccines are only for booster doses, not for the 2-dose primary series.

You can get the updated booster shot at many locations in King County.

Public Health vaccination site at the Auburn Outlet Collection Mall will have both the Pfizer and the Moderna updated boosters once they have finished the approval process. Other healthcare providers have also ordered new boosters and will offer them to non-members (though some may only offer them to members in the first week or two), including Kaiser Permanente, UWMedicine, HealthPoint, SeaMar, Snoqualmie Valley Hospital, and ICHS. Pharmacies may also have the updated booster but check before going about availability.  Find more information about locations at kingcounty.gov/vaccine.

Stay tuned to the Public Health Insider for more updates in the coming weeks. For general information about COVID-19 vaccine: kingcounty.gov/covid/health

Originally posted on August 31, 2022.

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I am a risk communications specialist at Public Health - Seattle & King County.