When should I get the new COVID-19 Omicron Bivalent Booster? What experts say

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When is the best time to get the updated Omicron booster shot?

While a person’s schedule can change depending on health, occupation, or travel plans, officials generally recommend getting the extra bivalent dose before the busy fall and winter seasons.

With Halloween just over a month away, “it’s a good idea to increase your protection by getting this updated booster in the coming weeks,” said Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County director of public health.

dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert from UC San Francisco, suggested that eligible people get both the new booster and the flu shot by October.

“If you’re trick-or-treating for Halloween and haven’t gotten your flu shot or your booster yet, that’s probably when you really need to run to get it,” he said.

Officials say it takes two weeks after injection for the booster’s full protective effect. The maximum effectiveness of the injection is one month after the injection, but according to Chin-Hong, people should enjoy good protection for four or five months.

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The updated shot is known as a bivalent booster. Unlike the conventional monovalent vaccine and booster, which is designed only against the original coronavirus strain, the new injection targets the original strain and Omicron subvariants that have dominated the US for the past few months, including BA.5.

The updated boosters ensure that most Californians “will be able to bolster their protection against COVID-19 as we enter the fall and winter seasons,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly and Dr. Tomás Aragón, California public health director and state health official, said in a joint statement earlier this month.

“Because protection against infection can diminish over time, the updated boosters are a safe way to maintain protection and reduce the most serious impacts of COVID-19, such as hospitalization, prolonged COVID-19 and death,” continued their statement.

During the first fall-and-winter wave of the pandemic in 2020, coronavirus cases in California began to increase in November and accelerate sharply in December. Cases started to rise in December last year.

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People who have not been boosted or recovered from a coronavirus infection this calendar year should plan to get the new injection sooner rather than later, Chin-Hong said.

And those who have a big trip ahead of them, or who are going somewhere with a higher risk of exposure, may want to time their booster accordingly, at least two weeks after their event.

But Ferrer and Chin-Hong say those at higher risk for serious illness — such as people who are older, immunocompromised or pregnant — should get the new booster immediately.

“People who are at risk for serious complications … I would probably go ahead and give it to them now because that’s really my priority group,” Chin-Hong said.

However, there are some reasons why it’s OK to delay taking a booster.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention generally suggest residents wait if it’s been less than three months since they tested positive for the coronavirus or started experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, whichever came first.

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Other factors can change that timing, such as the person’s risk factors for developing serious disease.

A person must also be at least two months away from their last vaccination or conventional booster dose before receiving the updated booster.

It’s not dangerous to get the new booster earlier than recommended, Chin-Hong said. But waiting for enough time to pass will help produce a more effective immune response.

For those at a lower risk of severe COVID-19 illness, some experts say it may be reasonable to wait a little, with the timing of the shoot a little closer — but not too close — to Thanksgiving and the winter holidays.

“While it’s humbling to look back and be reminded of the massive impact of COVID on our lives, we are also encouraged as we head into our third winter with COVID as we head into the colder months with an updated fall booster coming correspond to the variants currently circulating,” Ferrer said at a recent briefing.

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