Flu season is here — and now is the perfect time to come in and get your yearly vaccine. Just walk in to any CityMD location whenever it is convenient for you. We offer both the regular dose flu shot, for individuals 6 months to 64 years old, and the high dose flu shot for patients ages 65 and older.
On August 31, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of two updated or “bivalent” booster shots from both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. The updated shots protect against both the original strains of COVID-19 virus and most recent Omicron subvariants of the virus.
Summit Health’s Khushbu Taker-Desai, PharmD, BCACP, who specializes in ambulatory clinical pharmacy services, explains everything you need to know about this updated booster shot and this year’s flu vaccine. Find out about the best time to get vaccinated, what ages are eligible, and when to come in if you have recently been diagnosed or treated for COVID-19.
The 411 on COVID Boosters
Q. What is the updated bivalent COVID booster I have been reading about in the news? How is it different from the original booster shot that came out?
A. There are two different booster vaccines available now:
- The original or monovalent booster that protects against the original strain of the COVID-19 virus.
- An updated or bivalent booster that protects against the most recent Omicron subvariants of the virus as well as the original strain.
Q. Which booster shot should I get?
A. The original or monovalent boosters are no longer authorized for people ages 12 years and older. The updated or bivalent single-dose booster replaces all prior booster recommendations for this age group. If you recently received the original booster, you need to wait two months between injections to be eligible to receive the updated booster.
Q. I’m fully vaccinated. How often should I get a booster?
A. If you are 12 years and older, you are considered fully vaccinated or up to date after you receive the updated or bivalent booster dose. You can receive the updated booster at least two months after completing your primary series or two months after the last original or monovalent booster dose.
Q. I have a young child. What is available for kids under 12?
A. Booster doses are not currently authorized for children 6 months through 4 years of age. They are considered fully vaccinated when they complete the primary vaccination series with either Moderna or Pfizer- BioNTech.
Children 5 through 11 years of age who completed the primary vaccination series with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech monovalent booster two months after the last dose.
Q. What are the side effects of the new booster shot? Are they different from the other COVID vaccines?
A. The side effects that have been reported after getting the updated booster shot are similar to those you may have experienced after the primary two-dose or single-dose series. Fever, headache, tiredness, and pain at the injection site are most common.
Q. I recently received treatment for COVID-19; do I need to wait to receive my booster shot?
A. COVID-19 vaccination and booster shots do not need to be delayed if you were treated with monoclonal antibodies or antivirals for COVID-19. You can receive your booster once you are symptom-free from the COVID-19 infection and have met the CDC’s criteria for isolation.
Q. I recently received a monoclonal antibody, Evusheld, for prevention of COVID-19; do I need to wait to receive my updated booster dose?
A. COVID-19 vaccination and booster shots do not need to be delayed from your last Evusheld infusion.
Q. I am currently recovering from a COVID-19 infection; do I need to wait to receive my updated booster dose?
A. You can receive your booster once you are symptom-free from the infection and have met the CDC’s criteria for isolation.
Q. Is Summit Health administering COVID-19 boosters?
A. Summit Health is not administering the single dose bivalent booster. If you are eligible, please locate a local pharmacy using the vaccine appointment finder on the NJDOH website to receive your booster free of charge.
Flu Shot 101
Q. Can I get my flu shot and COVID booster at the same time? Or do I need to spread them out?
A. Seasonal flu shots and COVID-19 vaccines including the booster shot can be administered at the same time. Studies have found similar immune responses whether these vaccines are administered separately or at the same time.
Q. If I get both shots at the same time, should I use different arms?
A. Both vaccines can be administered in the same arm at a different site at least 1 inch apart. If you usually experience any injection site reactions such as redness or pain, then you should get each shot in a different arm.
Q. Is there such a thing as getting the flu shot too early? What month is ideal?
A. If you only need one dose, September and October are generally the best months to be vaccinated against the flu. Children who need more than one dose and pregnant women in their third trimester can consider getting vaccinated in the earlier months of July and August.
Q. Is it too late to be vaccinated after October?
A. No. Vaccination will still provide immunity as long as flu viruses are circulating. The seasonal flu generally peaks between December and March, but it can still be prevalent as late as May.
Q. Last year I had a flu shot and still got the flu. Why should I get it this year? Does it really make your case milder?
A. It is possible that last year you were exposed to the flu virus right before you were vaccinated, or you were exposed to a flu virus that was very different from the flu viruses in the flu vaccine you received. How well a flu vaccine works depends on the match between the viruses chosen to make the vaccine and those that are spreading and causing the illness for the season.
Regardless of this, you should receive the vaccine every year as vaccination reduces the severity of the illness, including flu-related doctor visits, flu-related hospitalization, ICU admission, and worsening of your chronic conditions such as COPD, asthma, and diabetes. Additionally, getting vaccinated yourself may also protect the people around you who are more likely to have serious flu-illness such as babies, young children, older adults, and those with chronic medical conditions.