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What you need to know

  • Everyone ages 5 and older can now get a bivalent booster at least two months after completing their primary series or receiving their first booster.
  • The updated boosters have no safety concerns and are at least as effective as our original vaccines.
  • The updated boosters are designed to provide better protection against BA.5 and potentially against future variants.

Omicron boosters are now available for kids as young as 5 years old after the FDA and CDC expanded authorization on Wednesday. But it’s unclear how many kids will actually receive the bivalent booster in the next couple months. The majority of kids 5 to 11 have not yet completed their two-dose primary vaccination series, and many parents are still unaware that updated boosters exist.

Why do kids need an Omicron booster?

Omicron boosters are bivalent vaccines that target the original COVID-19 strain and the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants. They are designed to provide better protection against BA.5 and potentially against future variants.

As winter approaches, indoor activities will increase and viruses will become more common. One of the best ways to keep kids protected against COVID-19 is to get them vaccinated and boosted. Keeping kids up to date on vaccines will help limit transmission, preventing more vulnerable family and community members from getting infected, especially during the holiday season.

How are the boosters for kids different from the boosters for adults?

Both Pfizer and Moderna developed smaller versions of the bivalent booster for kids. Pfizer’s bivalent booster, previously cleared for people 12 and older, is now available for kids 5 to 11 as a 10-microgram dose. Moderna’s bivalent booster, previously available for adults only, is now authorized for kids 12 to 17 in the adult-size dosage and kids 5 to 11 at half that dosage. 

As is the case for adults, kids as young as 5 can receive an Omicron booster at least two months after completing their primary series or receiving their first booster. Everyone still needs to receive the original vaccines for their primary series, but the bivalent shots are now the only authorized boosters.

Are the Omicron boosters safe and effective?

Pfizer’s and Moderna’s Omicron boosters have no safety concerns and are at least as effective as the original vaccines.

Some parents may have concerns around the fact that the new boosters did not go through human trials. In developing the Omicron boosters, scientists at both companies kept the original vaccines’ foundations and modified them slightly to include the BA.4 and BA.5 components. Because changes were minimal, the FDA did not need additional human trials to confirm the updated boosters’ safety and efficacy. This fast-tracked authorization process is similar to the one used for annual flu vaccines.

While there are no safety concerns around the Omicron boosters, there is a lack of data around how much additional protection they will offer. Pfizer and Moderna are both starting to study their Omicron boosters’ effectiveness in kids; based on what we know about how bivalent vaccines work, the boosters are expected to provide more durable protection against BA.5 and potentially against future variants.

Should my child still get an Omicron booster if they just got boosted in the spring?

Yes. The CDC recommends everyone ages 5 and older get an updated booster at least two months after completing their primary series or receiving their first booster. Some experts recommend waiting longer—about four to six months—to maximize the immune response. They also recommend waiting about three months after COVID-19 infection to get your next dose. 

But it can be risky to wait or try to time your booster to the next surge as the virus is unpredictable and protection from the shot takes a few weeks to kick in. Generally speaking, it’s better to get a booster sooner rather than later, especially if you want to ensure protection for the holiday season.