What to Know About the Bivalent COVID-19 Booster

U.S. health officials have authorized bivalent doses of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have approved and recommended the bivalent dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The previously authorized monovalent COVID-19 doses from Pfizer and Moderna are no longer in use in the United States.

Here’s what to know about the bivalent COVID-19 vaccines and when and where you can receive them.

What Is the Bivalent Dose?

The bivalent dose targets the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the Omicron variant. They also target the original strain of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The original monovalent boosters protected only against the original strain of SARS-CoV-2.

The BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants first emerged in late 2021 and spread quickly. They became the dominant form of the coronavirus in the United States in the summer of 2022. Omicron variants escape antibody defenses from previous vaccines and boosters.

The bivalent dose targets the “spike” protein for both the original strain of the coronavirus as well as BA.4 and BA.5. The goal is to create antibodies against BA.4 and BA.5. This should provide stronger protection against all of the similar Omicron variants that are circulating since BA.4 and BA.5 emerged.

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Who Is Eligible for the Bivalent Dose?

Americans age 6 months and older are eligible for the bivalent dose of Pfizer and Moderna. You can get the bivalent dose even if you have received one or more doses of the original monovalent COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC recommends people 6 months old and up receive at least one bivalent COVID-19 vaccine.

For people who are not immunocompromised, the CDC says:

  • For their initial vaccine series, children 6 months to 4 years old should receive either two or three bivalent doses, depending on the product. Children 5 years old should receive one or two bivalent doses.
  • People 6 years old and up who are unvaccinated or who have only received monovalent vaccine doses should get one bivalent dose.
  • People 65 years old and up have the option to receive one additional bivalent dose.

For people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised, the CDC says:

  • For their initial vaccination series, people 6 months and older should receive three bivalent doses.
  • People 6 months and older who received only monovalent doses should receive one or two bivalent doses, depending on their age and which vaccine they receive.
  • People who already received bivalent doses have the option to receive one or more additional bivalent doses.

Visit the CDC website for the full recommendations for the bivalent vaccine.

When Can I Get the Bivalent Dose?

The timing for when you can get the bivalent vaccine depends on factors like your age, vaccination status, and whether you’re immunocompromised. See the CDC website for detailed vaccination schedules for people who are not immunocompromised and people who are immunocompromised.

If you recently had COVID-19 and are vaccinated, you can get the bivalent booster when you are well. But the CDC suggests waiting at least three months after COVID-19 to get the shot. If you currently have COVID-19, you should wait to get the vaccine until you are well.

Talk to your doctor if you’re unsure about whether you or your loved ones can get the bivalent dose. You also can visit the CDC website to see if you’re up to date.

Which Bivalent Booster Can I Get?

Unless you are between the ages of 6 months and 5 years old, the bivalent booster you get does not have to be from the same manufacturer as your primary vaccine or booster.

If you are age 5 and older, you can receive either the Pfizer or Moderna bivalent. It doesn’t matter which manufacturer you received for your previous vaccine doses.

Where Can I Get the Bivalent Dose?

Individuals who meet the criteria can schedule a COVID-19 bivalent dose by calling their primary care office. If you are not an adult, you can ask someone to contact a provider. Ask if they offer the COVID-19 bivalent dose.

You also can get the bivalent dose at pharmacies and other locations. For information, visit Vaccine.UPMC.com or Vaccines.Gov.

Is the Bivalent Dose Safe?

The bivalent dose is safe and has a safety profile similar to other doses of vaccine.

The most commonly reported side effects after the COVID-19 vaccine in clinical trial participants were pain, redness, and swelling at the injection site. It also can cause short-term, flu-like symptoms like:

  • Tiredness.
  • Headache.
  • Muscle pain.
  • Chills.
  • Joint pain.
  • Nausea/vomiting.
  • Swollen lymph nodes under the arm where you got the injection.
  • Fever.

These symptoms are often minor and go away within a couple of days. The bivalent dose went through extensive safety evaluation during clinical trials.

UPMC recommends COVID-19 vaccination for everyone aged 6 months and older. Data consistently show the vaccine reduces the risks of serious complications of COVID-19, including hospitalization and death.

For more information, visit UPMC.com.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

Dani Blum, New York Times, What to Know About the New Booster Shots. Link

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC Recommends the First Updated COVID-19 Booster. Link

Food and Drug Administration, Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Authorizes Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech Bivalent COVID-19 Vaccines for Use as a Booster Dose. Link

About UPMC

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.