Newly recommended this fall, are the “bivalent” vaccine boosters. Bivalent means that these vaccines protect against both the original COVID-19 and newer Omicron variants, such as BA.4 and BA.5. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends that people receive the bivalent Omicron-containing mRNA COVID-19 vaccines over the original COVID-19 vaccines for their boosters. There are 3 bivalent vaccines approved in Canada:
- Pfizer-BioNTech Original and Omicron BA.4/5
- Moderna Original and Omicron BA.1
- Moderna Original and Omicron BA.4/5
There is presently no evidence to choose one vaccine over another among these 3 options. Currently, the most common COVID-19 infections appear to be the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. These bivalent vaccines are presently approved for people 12 years and older (Pfizer) and 18 years and older (Moderna).
If you have had COVID, it is suggested that you wait 3 months before your booster to help it be most effective. If you have been previously immunized and boosted, it is generally recommended to wait 6 months for your next booster. In some cases, boosters could be used as early as 3 months. The risk/benefit of waiting longer for a booster depends on your risk of getting COVID and your risk of severe disease. A longer time interval between boosters improves the effectiveness of the immune response; however, if you are more likely to get COVID (exposure to the public, high prevalence of COVID in your community) or have a high risk for getting more severe illness (immune compromised e.g. kidney transplant, diabetes) then it is better to get the booster earlier rather than later. If you have not yet received any vaccines for COVID, it is still recommended that you get the original vaccination strain and then get boosted with the bivalent vaccines.
The bottom line is that we are lucky to live in Canada where vaccination for both influenza and COVID is easily available and covered by our healthcare system. Do your part to protect yourself and those around you by getting vaccinated!