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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
New COVID-19 booster shots targeting recent variants are now available in Iowa.
Two weeks ago, federal health agencies approved new "bivalent" COVID-19 vaccines from both Pfizer and Moderna. The reformulated vaccine is an mRNA vaccine that targets both the original COVID-19 variant and newer, more common omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5.
“It's very targeted right now to the predominant strains that are circulating in the U.S. and causing most of the illness from a COVID-19 perspective,” University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Chief Pharmacy Officer Mike Brownlee said in a news conference on Wednesday.
Iowa has placed an order for 56,000 doses of the bivalent boosters, which began arriving Sept. 1, Iowa Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Sarah Ekstrand said. She said the state is expecting to receive regular shipments of the vaccines in the future.
Who should get the new booster?
The new booster shots are approved for anyone 12 and older who has already had their first vaccine series, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The original, monovalent vaccines will continue to be used for the initial series and for boosters for children ages 5 to 11, Brownlee said, but the new formula will be the only shot available going forward for boosters for those over 12.
The bivalent vaccines are available at pharmacies across the state, according to the federal vaccine locator tool vaccines.gov. Several county health departments also show availability of the new vaccine.
Ekstrand said people do not need to specifically request the bivalent booster, as vaccine providers will be administering it for booster shots by default.
Hy-Vee announced on Tuesday it had made a limited supply of the bivalent boosters available at select pharmacies. Because supplies are limited, the supermarket chain said the vaccines are available by appointment only.
When should I get the booster?
Iowans can get a dose of the bivalent booster two months after their last vaccine, whether that was the initial series or another booster, Brownlee said.
“One of the good things is the data nationally would suggest that most individuals are at least six months out from their last dose, so I think we know that going into the season,” he said.
People who have recently had COVID-19 can get the booster as soon as they’re out of the isolation period, Brownlee said, but people retain higher natural immunity for up to three months and can opt to wait longer as well.
The timing of the new vaccine coincides with the annual flu shot availability, and Brownlee said people should consider getting their COVID-19 vaccine booster and flu vaccines together.
“The rollout of this new COVID updated booster will line up perfectly with our flu campaign going forward, and this should start to feel a lot more like a flu campaign," he said.
National officials have indicated that COVID-19 vaccines will likely be recommended annually with minor tweaks, like the flu vaccine is administered now.
Brownlee said Iowans should remember that the pandemic is still happening, and vaccines are a very effective way to prevent serious effects from the virus.
"We just want to continue to stay focused on the fact that we're not out of the pandemic and that we could see a surge this fall of omicron or another subvariant, too," he said. "And what we've seen with the original vaccine is it's very protective against serious illness, hospitalization and death."