What you need to know
- If you are age 6 or older, you now need one bivalent vaccine in order to be up to date, regardless of how many shots you received in the past.
- Younger kids still need to complete their entire primary series, but they will now get their remaining shots with bivalent vaccines.
- People who are ages 65 and older or immunocompromised have the option to get an additional bivalent booster.
Last week, the CDC updated its COVID-19 vaccine guidance in an attempt to streamline its recommendations. The main changes include replacing Pfizer’s and Moderna’s monovalent vaccines with their respective updated bivalent vaccines and allowing more flexibility for high-risk individuals to get extra protection. Below, we break down the updated guidance and explain how it applies to you.
Why are Pfizer’s and Moderna’s monovalent vaccines no longer authorized?
The FDA ended its emergency use authorization for the original monovalent vaccines because we now have newer bivalent vaccines that provide better protection against currently circulating COVID-19 variants. Both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s bivalent vaccines are designed to target the original COVID-19 strain as well as more recent variants, making these updated doses the best tools we have to arm our immune systems.
How does the new guidance affect people who are ages 6 and older?
The new guidance is straightforward for people ages 6 and older: Regardless of how many shots you received in the past, you now need one bivalent vaccine in order to be up to date. So if you’ve already received a bivalent booster, you’re all set and well protected against severe disease. If you’ve gotten multiple doses of Pfizer’s or Moderna’s monovalent vaccine but haven’t received a bivalent dose yet, your next step is to get a bivalent booster. If you haven’t gotten any COVID-19 vaccines yet, you now only need one bivalent dose to get up to date.
How does the new guidance affect younger kids?
Unlike the rest of the population, younger kids will still need to complete their entire primary series, but they will now get their remaining shots with bivalent vaccines. This youngest age group includes kids under age 5 for Pfizer’s three-dose primary series and kids under age 6 for Moderna’s two-dose primary series. Only kids who completed their entire primary series with Pfizer’s or Moderna’s monovalent vaccines are eligible to receive one bivalent booster to be up to date.
Can older adults and immunocompromised people get more than one bivalent vaccine?
Yes. The CDC’s new guidance allows people ages 65 and older to get a second bivalent vaccine at least four months after their previous dose. The guidance also gives health care providers the flexibility to recommend additional bivalent boosters to their immunocompromised patients as needed. This option for extra protection is reserved for older adults and immunocompromised people because their immunity tends to wane faster. These groups are also at highest risk for severe disease, hospitalization, and death. Throughout the pandemic, the majority of COVID-19 deaths have been among people ages 65 and older and people with comorbidities.