FDA approves second COVID vaccine booster

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On April 18, the FDA authorized a second omicron-specific coronavirus vaccine booster shot for people who are at least 65 years of age or have weak immune systems.

Eligible individuals will be able to receive the dose as long as it has been at least four months since their first shot of what’s known as the bivalent booster, which targets omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 as well as the original novel coronavirus.

The Maricopa County Health Department wants to encourage people to get the booster. Only 12% of Maricopa County residents got the last booster.

Arizona Horizon welcomes Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, Medical Director of the Disease Control Division at the Maricopa County Health Department, to discuss more.

What exactly did the FDA do today?

“The FDA did two things: One is that they authorized a second booster dose of the new updated booster, which has both the original strain and omicron in it for seniors 65 and over, and also for people with depressed immune systems. They also simplified the basic regimen for the MRNA vaccine, Moderna and Pfizer, and they said that we could use the updated boosters in place of just that original vaccine that we had a long time ago,” said Sunenshine.

Are these different shots?

“This booster is the same updated booster that we got last fall, and it includes two strands: the original strain of COVID-19 and also the omicron BA.4, BA.5 strains. So it’s tailored for the newer omicron strains and will offer the most protection,” said Sunenshine.

How long have previous shots lasted?

“It’s really hard to know. We do know that when you get the vaccine the immunity does wane over time, and that’s why they’re making this recommendation that the people who are most vulnerable to getting severely sick or even dying get a second booster. What we’re all sort of anticipating is that FDA will ultimately recommend a routine vaccination similar to how we get a flu shot, but we’re still waiting to hear about that,” said Sunenshine.

Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine

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