The bivalent COVID booster is now available to the public. Here’s what you need to know.

Oct. 11, 2022, 8:40 p.m.

Bivalent versions of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine and the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, which protect against the Omicron variant, were authorized for use as a single booster dose in September by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The booster is available for anyone five years old or older. Here is everything you need to know about the new booster.

How is this booster different from the others?

This booster takes the same vaccine that has been used for hundreds of millions of Americans but includes protection against the latest COVID-19 variant, Omicron. Previous vaccines were limited in their ability to protect against the variant. The name “bivalent” comes from the fact that there are two components this booster fights off — the original strain of SARS-CoV-2 virus and the Omicron variant. Data from antibody tests suggest that this bivalent booster will offer better protection against the virus compared to the prior vaccines.

How effective is this booster? 

Because the booster is so new, there is not much data on the long-term efficacy of the booster, experts said. According to medicine professor Dean Winslow, who is an infectious diseases professor expert at the School of Medicine, scientists could not wait the extra six months it would take for efficacy tests, as every day, many people become sick from the new variant. However, the bivalent booster has undergone many clinical trials and has been proven to be safe and more effective than other COVID-19 vaccines, Winslow said.

Is this booster necessary for young and healthy students?

The University is not requiring the bivalent booster at this time but it is recommended for all eligible students, wrote University spokesperson Dee Mostofi in a statement to The Daily. 

While the vaccine protects against serious COVID cases for a long time, protection against mild infection wanes over time, which is why this booster is important for all, regardless of health status, wrote Sarah Rudman, who is the deputy health officer for the County of Santa Clara County Public Health Department, in an email.

The public health department recommends this booster to everyone, including the young and healthy populations, as “keeping each of us free of infection this winter will help protect those around us,” Rudman wrote.

I was recently infected with COVID-19. Do I need the booster?

According to Winslow, most experts recommend waiting at least three months after your last shot or your last infection, which is when your immunity against COVID will begin to wane. For the most “robust immune response,” you should wait about 12 weeks after natural infection to get boosted, Winslow said.

Where can I get the booster?

CVS Pharmacy offers the bivalent booster for anyone over the age of 11, with appointments available online. Students can also schedule booster appointments through Stanford Health Care, which is administering boosters at appointment-only at locations in Palo Alto, Redwood City and San Jose.

This article has been updated to reflect the FDA’s most recent booster guidelines.

Lauren is a contributing writer for the sports section. You can contact her at sports 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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