Here's what you need to know about the new COVID-19 booster

The FDA approved new bivalent vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna on Wednesday that target both the original strain of COVID-19 and Omicron subvariants.

Video Transcript

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ROBERT CALIFF: Today, the FDA authorized updated boosters of both the Moderna and Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines.

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WAFAA EL-SADR: So what's unique and different about this new booster vaccination is that it actually was developed against two variants-- against the original [INAUDIBLE] variant as well as against Omicron. It's what we call a bivalent booster dose. And what we mean by a bivalent vaccine is a vaccine that was developed against more than one virus or more than one subtype of the virus. So this is a good way of keeping up with the coronavirus as it evolves over time.

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One of the concerns that have been raised is the fact that the data on these new bivalent booster doses really arose from studies that were done in animals, in mice. Now, this is not unusual. I think it's important that we keep in mind the example of the influenza vaccine that we take every year. We are dependent every year on data that's produced in animal studies that are related to the new influenza vaccine every year.

So it's not unusual for us to think of a vaccine where we only have animal data when it is building on existing vaccines, on previous strains of the same virus. While it's not unusual to use these animal data, I think, at the same time, of course, we will be looking forward to other data to support the use of this bivalent booster dose.

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Each and every one of us should have a primary vaccination series before we get a booster dose. It's recommended that we at least a couple of months since the last booster dose. I think it's also important to keep in mind that the time to get a booster is not in the middle of a surge. We recommend that people do take the next booster dose before the anticipated surge, meaning to start taking these booster doses in the fall-- early in the fall before we encounter the potential surge of COVID-19 this winter.

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I think the most important thing is to keep in mind that these booster doses save lives. Some people may be dismayed that even though they got vaccinated and boostered, they still got infected. These vaccines are very, very effective at protecting us from the worst effects of COVID-19. And therefore, I strongly recommend that you continue to seek these vaccines. Let's keep in mind what's most important, these vaccines can keep us out of the hospital and keep us well.

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