Earlier this month, we got another tool to help keep our children protected, safe and healthy: the bivalent booster. This safe, effective COVID-19 booster for children ages 5 to 11 protects against both the original strain of COVID and the omicron variant.
After monitoring and studies, the Food and Drug Administration has authorized use of the bivalent booster. As a pediatrician, I am thrilled that this COVID booster is available for everyone ages 5 and older. As we enter peak germ season, it is important that we take precautions to keep ourselves healthy. Washing your hands, social distancing, wearing a mask, and staying up to date on vaccinations and boosters are your best shot (pun intended) at protecting yourself, your family, and those around you.
I recognize that many parents have questions about this new COVID booster. I love that; questions are normal. Let’s review the information on the COVID-19 bivalent booster and answer some of the questions I am fielding from parents and caregivers.
Kids and new COVID booster: Q&A
Who is eligible for a booster, and what is a bivalent booster, anyway?
Everyone age 5 and up is now eligible for a COVID-19 booster and can be vaccinated at least two months after having completed a primary COVID-19 vaccine series or after their most recent booster.
The original COVID-19 vaccines were called “monovalent” and contained a component from the original strain of SARS-CoV-2. The new “updated” or “bivalent” boosters contain two messenger components: one of the original strains of SARS-CoV-2, and the other of the most commonly circulating COVID-19 strains: BA.4 and BA.5. The BA.4 and BA.5 lineages of the omicron variant are currently causing most cases of COVID-19 in the U.S.
When should my family get boosted?
Now is the best time to get boosted — and get your flu shot, too!
This is the time of year that respiratory viruses like influenza begin to circulate, and we anticipate there could be a seasonal surge of both COVID-19 and flu that would put a serious strain on our health care system — and a cramp in your holiday plans. Make sure everyone is vaccinated and boosted by Nov. 10 so that you’re protected in time for Thanksgiving and the holiday season.
Remember that it takes two weeks for these vaccines to take effect and build immunity in your system. The more people who are vaccinated and boosted now, the better our immunity against COVID-19 will be this fall and winter.
If my child already had COVID-19, do they still need an updated booster?
The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person. That makes it hard to say how much protection they’d have after COVID-19, and for how long.
We know that right now, the vaccines available to us are proving to be effective against COVID-19 and the variants that we’re tracking. While serious COVID-19 infections seem to be rarer in children, kiddos can and do spread COVID-19, and we do see children who are hospitalized with infection or complications.
Remember, the best way you can protect yourself, your family, and those around you from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated and boosted. I strongly encourage you to stay up to date on vaccinations so we can all stay healthy this winter season.
John Dunn, M.D., MPH, is medical director, knowledge and implementation at Kaiser Permanente Washington.