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New COVID-19 boosters this fall: Five things to know

Published on Monday, October 3, 2022

By: Annie Oeth,

This fall’s new COVID-19 boosters are doing double duty, acting as a defense against the original strain as well as the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, experts at the University of Mississippi Medical Center say.

Portrait of Tulip Jhaveri

“The vaccine is based on the original wild-type strain of SARS-CoV-2 and the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants, which are the most recently circulating strains causing most current cases,” said Dr. Tulip Jhaveri, assistant professor of the Division of Infectious Diseases.

The updated boosters, approved Aug. 31 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Sept. 1 by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are bivalent, meaning that they are a defense against the two strains of the virus causing COVID-19 infections.

Both the Pfizer bivalent booster, authorized for those 12 and older, and Moderna's bivalent booster, authorized for those 18 and older, contain strains to fight both the original virus and subvariants.

"If you’re two months out from your last COVID-19 primary vaccine series or booster dose, you are eligible to get a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine, and should get it soon,” Jhaveri said.

Portrait of April Palmer

Dr. April Palmer, professor and chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, said COVID-19 vaccines and boosters have been proven to be safe and effective in reducing the risk of serious illness from the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its variants.

“COVID-19 vaccinations are safe for ages 6 months and older,” she said. “We, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend vaccinations and boosters. Parents with questions about vaccines and boosters should talk with their children’s pediatrician.”

Consider these five facts about COVID-19 vaccination this fall.

Vaccination lowers the risk of serious infection for young children and adults.

Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 can significantly reduce the risk of hospitalization from COVID-19, according to research by Dr. Charlotte Hobbs, professor of pediatric infectious diseases at UMMC.

One paper, published Jan. 12, 2022, in the New England Journal of Medicine, looked at how well the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine protected adolescents aged 12-17 from severe COVID-19. In a group of more than 1,200 people, the study found that the two-dose vaccination was 94 percent effective at preventing hospitalization and 98 percent effective in preventing ICU and life support care. None of the seven children who died were fully vaccinated.

In a subsequent study, vaccine effectiveness in children ages 5 to 11 against hospitalization during the Omicron period was 68 percent. Both studies involved children from Mississippi.

Another study showed an increased rate of preterm delivery and neurodevelopment effects in infants as measured at one year of life in mothers with SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy. Interestingly, another study to which UMMC researchers contributed showed that maternal vacation against SARS-CoV-2 was associated with decreased hospitalization risk in infants less than 6 months of age. Children less than 6 months old are ineligible to be vaccinated.

UMMC researchers also contributed to a study showing how COVID-19 in the form of acute disease or the rare but serious condition, Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, or MIS-C can result in persistent symptoms and activity intolerance in more than one in four children more than two months after hospitalization.

You can receive the new COVID-19 booster when you get your flu vaccination.

There’s no need to wait to take a COVID-19 booster after getting an annual flu shot, the CDC has said. While an annual flu vaccine and this fall’s COVID-19 boosters don’t have to be taken together, getting both injections at the same time can be convenient.

The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated against influenza. People at higher risk for flu-related complications range from young children and children with chronic medical conditions to people 65 and older.

Side effects from COVID-19 boosters are mild.

The most common side effects from this fall’s COVID-19 bivalent boosters are like those from the initial COVID-19 vaccinations and earlier boosters: fever, headache, fatigue and pain at the injection site.

The bivalent booster is replacing earlier boosters so there’s no need to catch up.

If you have been vaccinated against COVID-19 but haven’t had any of the boosters, you can get this fall’s booster rather than taking earlier boosters first. Just COVID-19 vaccine boosters are being changed to target mutations of COVID-19 and its variants.

New bivalent COVID-19 booster shots are available at all Mississippi Department of Health county health department clinics and at area clinics and pharmacies.

Appointments for COVID-19 boosters can be made online, by calling (877)- 978-6453, or by consulting with your pharmacy or primary care provider. Remember to bring your COVID-19 vaccination card to your appointment if available.


The above article appears in CONSULT, UMMC’s monthly e-newsletter sharing news about cutting-edge clinical and health science education advances and innovative biomedical research at the Medical Center and giving you tips and suggestions on how you and the people you love can live a healthier life. Click here and enter your email address to receive CONSULT free of charge. You may cancel at any time.