A provider giving a patient a vaccine shot
By El Gibson

Boosted Booster

FDA Authorizes New COVID-19 Vaccines for Booster Dose

Would you like a side of COVID-19 booster with that flu vaccine?

With fall and winter around the corner, it’s not only time to get your flu shot – health officials are urging everyone who is eligible to get their updated COVID booster too.

The Food and Drug Administration recently authorized its first update to COVID vaccines. The move tweaks the original recipe of the vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna, targeting the original coronavirus strain as well as today’s most common Omicron strain.

The vaccines contain half that original vaccine recipe and half protection against the newest omicron versions, BA.4 and BA.5. The combination aims to increase cross-protection against multiple variants.

“They adjusted the formulation such that it’s bivalent, meaning it includes two strains,” said University of New Mexico Hospital epidemiologist Meghan Brett, MD. “I’m hoping this new vaccine shows that things are changing to a more predictable pattern, but only time will tell.”


Meghan Brett, MD
Viruses are known to mutate and with the pressure of immunity, the virus will continue to change. I’m hoping that it continues to evolve such that the infections are less severe
Meghan Brett, MD

“Viruses are known to mutate and with the pressure of immunity, the virus will continue to change,” she added. “I’m hoping that it continues to evolve such that the infections are less severe.”

According to the New Mexico Department of Health, on Friday there were 87 individuals hospitalized in New Mexico with COVID, including 19 COVID-positive adults at UNM Hospital and two COVID-positive patients at Sandoval Regional Medical Center.

There have been more than 615,000 COVID cases and more than 8,500 COVID-related deaths in New Mexico since the beginning of the pandemic.

In the early days of the pandemic, a common symptom of COVID was loss of taste and smell. However, with the evolving variants, commonly reported symptoms have evolved as well. Now, Brett said, symptoms reported from flu and COVID cases are similar.

“It’s only 16% of people who have lost their taste and smell with Omicron, whereas earlier variants the rate was much higher, so that’s no longer a defining feature,” Brett said. “It’s actually clinically hard to distinguish between the flu and COVID based on symptoms alone.”

And that’s where testing comes into play as we head into flu season, she said.

“If people are at a higher risk for more severe infections, they should get tested and then potentially treated for which infection they have,” Brett said.

So, she said, as we head into flu season, it’s important to be vaccinated against both the flu and COVID. She added that it’s acceptable to get both the flu vaccine and the new COVID booster in the same visit.

“In studies, COVID vaccines administered with seasonal flu vaccines showed similar or slightly higher reactogenicity, meaning that your immune response is great, and there have been no specific safety concerns identified,” she said.

“If the threshold for getting a vaccine is high, then I would definitely advocate for getting both at once. It’s more about not missing the opportunity to get both.”

Pfizer has opened its updated boosters to everyone 12 and older who’s already had a primary series of the vaccine, while the Moderna booster is only available for adult use. Studies of doses for younger children are expected later in the year.

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