How, where and when to get updated Covid booster shots targeting BA.5 (2024)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Thursday that teenagers and adults get updated booster shots from Pfizer or Moderna. The shots — also known as bivalent vaccines —are designed to target both the original coronavirus strain and the currently circulating omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5.

The decision follows a similar recommendation from a panel of independent advisers to the CDC, which voted in favor of the shots Thursday.

The CDC's recommendation means the shots can now be administered to the public. But a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services said people likely won't start getting updated boosters until after Labor Day.

After that, appointment availability is expected to ramp up over several days, with appointments becoming more broadly available in a few weeks, a senior administration official said. People will be able to search for the closest sites offering updated boosters at

Here's what to know about the updated shots.

Are there enough doses for everyone?

White House officials said vaccine supply should meet demand this fall. The administration has purchased 171 million updated booster doses — 105 million from Pfizer and 66 million from Moderna — thus far, with the option to procure up to 429 million more.

Distribution of the doses began after the Food and Drug Administration authorized the shots Wednesday, with shipments to tens of thousands of locations, including pharmacies. Before that, pharmacies, community health centers and rural health clinics could pre-order the shots from the federal government.

A CVS spokesperson said its pharmacies expect to get updated booster doses on a rolling basis over the next few days. People can make appointments as usual on CVS’ website or its app.

Walgreens similarly said people can make appointments to get updated boosters through its website or its app or over the phone.

For now, the shots remain free.

How are these boosters different?

Whereas the initial Covid vaccine boosters targeted only the original strain of the coronavirus, the updated boosters are designed to add protection against omicron subvariants. For that reason, the modified shots will be the only boosters available for teens and adults moving forward.

The newly authorized shots target the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. As of Tuesday, BA.5 accounted for at least 87% of new U.S. cases. BA.4 and a similar sublineage, BA.4.6, made up around 11%.

“The updated Covid-19 boosters are formulated to better protect against the most recently circulating Covid-19 variant. They can help restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination and were designed to provide broader protection against newer variants," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement on Thursday.

Pfizer's and Moderna’s trials of their bivalent vaccines in people studied a formulation that targeted the original omicron strain. The updated version, however, was tested in laboratory studies, which found that the boosters generated strong antibody responses against BA.4 and BA.5.

Laboratory tests “so far have been a very good predictor of how well the vaccines protect against infection, as well as protecting against severe disease and hospitalization and death,” said David Montefiori, a professor at the Human Vaccine Institute at Duke University Medical Center.

Read more about updated Covid boosters

  • The FDA authorized the updated boosters on Wednesday, then the CDC recommended them on Thursday, based on an advisory committee's vote.
  • The reformulated shots are being distributed without results from human trials. They were tested on mice, after versions targeting the original omicron variant were tested on people.
  • The FDA in June asked Pfizer and Moderna to target BA.4 and BA.5 in updated boosters.

Who should get a booster?

The FDA authorized Pfizer's shot for people ages 12 and up and Moderna's for ages 18 and up. For those who are up to date on their Covid vaccinations, the updated booster constitutes a fourth, fifth, or sixth shot, depending on one's age and health status.

But some vaccine experts wonder whether the shots are necessary yet for young, healthy people, given the lack of clinical trial data to demonstrate how well they work against the newer omicron subvariants.

Nonetheless, Pablo Penaloza-MacMaster, an assistant professor ofmicrobiology-immunology at Northwestern University, said the potential benefits seem to outweigh the risks.

“The way that I look at it right now is that it seems like there’s not much to lose,” he said.

When is the ideal timing for this booster?

The CDC suggests that people wait at least two months since their most recent Covid shots to get the latest shots.

People who are elderly or immunocompromised should get boosted as soon as they meet those qualifications, Montefiori said. But he suggested that there's likely to be more wiggle room in the timing for young, healthy people.

“The longer you wait to get the boost, the more potent of a boosting effect it’s going to have,” he said. But for those who hold off, he added, “there’s that trade-off between waiting to get boosted so that you have a stronger boosting effect and the risk of getting infected while you’re waiting to get the boost.”

Montefiori, who is 68, said he got his fifth shot three weeks ago and plans to wait three months for his bivalent booster.

The CDC advises that people who recently had Covid consider delaying their boosters until three months after their symptoms started or, if they were asymptomatic, since their positive Covid tests.

Penaloza-MacMaster said his research suggests that healthy people of all ages could even wait six months between shots or following Covid infections.

But Montefiori said it's hard to know how long immune protection lasts after a Covid infection.

“The best advice that I would give people is to get the bivalent boost as soon as they’re eligible to, regardless of whether or not they’ve been infected, because of the uncertain nature of how much that infection really boosted your immunity,” he said.

Aria Bendix

Aria Bendix is the breaking health reporter for NBC News Digital.

How, where and when to get updated Covid booster shots targeting BA.5 (2024)


How often should I get a bivalent booster? ›

Everyone 6 months and older should receive a bivalent booster dose at least two months following their last monovalent dose.

What is the latest COVID vaccine 2024? ›

CDC recommends the 2023–2024 updated COVID-19 vaccines—Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, or Novavax—to protect against serious illness from COVID-19. Everyone aged 5 years and older ‡ should get 1 dose of an updated COVID-19 vaccine to protect against serious illness from COVID-19.

When did the new COVID booster come out? ›

The bivalent booster, which is no longer available, was introduced in the fall of 2022. It targeted the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants and the original SARS-CoV-2 virus. The updated vaccine is monovalent, designed to prevent severe disease from the Omicron XBB.1.5 subvariant.

How often should I have a COVID booster? ›

If you have had your primary vaccination course and you're aged: 75 years or older, you're recommended further doses of COVID-19 vaccine every 6 months. 18 – 74 years with severe immunocompromise, you're recommended further doses of COVID-19 vaccine every 12 months.

Which is better Pfizer or Moderna bivalent booster? ›

Pfizer: Is There a “Best” mRNA Vaccine? Both of the mRNA vaccines available in the US are highly effective against severe COVID-19, but recent studies suggest that Moderna's elicits a stronger immune response and might be better at preventing breakthrough infections.

How long to wait for COVID bivalent booster? ›

For people who have recovered from COVID-19 infection, getting the bivalent booster provides added protection. After having COVID-19, you may want to wait 3 months before getting the bivalent booster. Talk to your medical provider about the best timing for you.

Is Moderna or Pfizer booster better for seniors? ›

A booster shot with the Moderna vaccine offered older people better protection against COVID-19 if they had previously taken Pfizer jabs, researchers at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) have found.

How long does the COVID vaccine last? ›

The Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Novavax vaccines protect against many known variants of COVID-19. The Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines offer immunity against COVID-19 for up to six months.

What are the side effects of the COVID booster 2024? ›

You could experience soreness at the injection site, fatigue, headache, body aches, and fever.

What are the most serious side effects of COVID vaccines? ›

The largest vaccine safety study to date has identified two new, but very rare, side effects associated with covid-19 vaccines—transverse myelitis and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis. The Global Vaccine Data Network cohort study included 99 million vaccinated people from 10 sites across eight countries.

How long does COVID immunity last? ›

The immune response from a COVID-19 infection usually tamps down after 3-4 months, says Kawsar Talaat, MD, a vaccinologist and associate professor in the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.

What is the new variant of COVID called? ›

In April, a group of new virus strains known as the FLiRT variants (based on the technical names of their two mutations) emerged. The FLiRT strains are subvariants of Omicron, and they now account for more than 50% of COVID cases in the U.S. (up from less than 5% in March).

What are the side effects from COVID booster 5? ›

Common Booster Side Effects
  • Chills.
  • Fatigue.
  • Headache.
  • Injection-site redness and swelling.
  • Muscle or joint pain.
  • Pain.
Dec 15, 2023

What is the newest COVID vaccine? ›

On September 11, 2023, the Food and Drug Administration amended the emergency use authorization (EUA) of Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine to include the 2023-2024 formula. The Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine (2023-2024 Formula) includes a monovalent (single) component that corresponds to the Omicron variant XBB.

What are the symptoms of the new strain of COVID-19? ›

The new COVID variant symptoms are similar to those of previous strains, including:
  • Congestion.
  • Cough.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Fatigue.
  • Fever and chills.
  • Headaches.
  • Loss of taste or smell.
  • Muscle soreness and aches.

Is the COVID bivalent booster worth it? ›

The bivalent boosters are available from both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. “I support the booster for those who are eligible and want to get it,” says Yale Medicine infectious diseases specialist Scott Roberts, MD. Studies have shown that COVID-19 vaccines can prevent COVID-related hospitalization and death.

How long does immunity last after COVID? ›

Once you have had COVID-19, your immune system responds in several ways. This immune response can protect you against reinfection for several months, but this protection decreases over time. People with weakened immune systems who get an infection may have a limited immune response or none at all.

Is booster better than bivalent vaccine? ›

The FDA saw data from both Moderna and Pfizer in June that showed that a bivalent vaccine induced better responses against omicron than another dose of the original booster vaccine.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Francesca Jacobs Ret

Last Updated:

Views: 6346

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (48 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Francesca Jacobs Ret

Birthday: 1996-12-09

Address: Apt. 141 1406 Mitch Summit, New Teganshire, UT 82655-0699

Phone: +2296092334654

Job: Technology Architect

Hobby: Snowboarding, Scouting, Foreign language learning, Dowsing, Baton twirling, Sculpting, Cabaret

Introduction: My name is Francesca Jacobs Ret, I am a innocent, super, beautiful, charming, lucky, gentle, clever person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.