What You Need to Know About the New COVID Vaccines

vial of covid-19 vaccine

What You Need to Know About the New COVID Vaccines

October 26, 2023

As we enter the fall season, cases of the flu, RSV, and COVID are going to rise. Vaccines are the best and safest ways to protect yourself and your loved ones from these potentially dangerous viruses. New COVID vaccines have been released to target the newest variants that are circulating and causing illness. Here’s everything you need to know about these new vaccines and how they can help.

1. What’s Different About the New COVID Vaccines?

New COVID vaccines have been developed for fall and winter of 2023 based on the current variant XBB.1.5. These are the only COVID vaccines available this season. These updated vaccines are a different type of vaccine called a monovalent vaccine, which means there is only one component or variant. The previous COVID vaccine was a bivalent vaccine.

2. Who Should Get the New COVID Vaccines and When?

older woman receiving COVID-19 vaccine

The CDC recommends that everyone age 6 months and older should get vaccinated against COVID. For children 5 years of age or older, one dose of the updated mRNA-based Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is recommended, though individuals more at risk may receive additional doses. The updated Novavax vaccine is available for people 12 years of age and older. The updated Novavax vaccine is protein-based as an option for those unable to get an mRNA vaccine, and it requires two doses. Those at a higher risk of complications from COVID should get the new COVID vaccine as soon as possible to avoid severe illness. Experts recommend anyone else who is eligible should get it before the start of cold weather and flu season for maximum effectiveness.

3. How Effective are the New COVID Vaccines Against Current Variants?

Studies have shown that the updated COVID vaccines are effective against the current variants that are causing the majority of COVID cases in the US. These are variants EG.5, FL.1.5.1, and others in the XBB family. While none of the variants currently circulating are exact matches to the vaccine, they are closely related to the XBB.1.5 strain on which it is based. The antibodies generated from this strain cross-react well with the EG.5 and FL.1.5.1 variants. Data also suggests that the updated vaccines will create an immune response that recognizes the highly mutated BA.2.86 variant, though this variant has caused fewer cases of illness.

4. Are the New COVID Vaccines Considered Boosters?

vials of covid vaccine

The FDA is calling the new COVID vaccines “updated vaccines” instead of boosters. This reflects that COVID is now being treated more like the flu with annual vaccination. Just like we encourage individuals to get their annual flu shot, we are now encouraging annual COVID vaccines. This change in wording also reflects that the new COVID vaccines are not just boosting existing immunity from previous vaccines but instead building new immune responses to variants that are currently circulating.

5. Are There Any New Side Effects?

There are no new side effects. The possible side effects of the new COVID vaccines are the same as previous COVID vaccines. Side effects may include sore arm, redness or swelling at the injection site, headache, chills, and a fever. However, not everyone who receives a COVID vaccine will experience side effects.

6. Can I Get the Flu Shot and COVID Vaccine at the Same Time?

gloved hands filling syringe with vaccine from vial

If you would like to get both a flu shot and an updated COVID vaccine, you can get both at the same time. The immune response created by each vaccine does not change if they are administered at the same time or separately. Because cases of COVID and the flu both increase around the same time of the year, it can be a great idea to get your vaccines together to make sure you’re protected against both, especially if you are at a higher risk of severe illness.

7. If I’ve Never Had a COVID Vaccine, Can I Start with This One?

If you have never received a COVID vaccine, now is the perfect time to start. The updated COVID vaccines will help protect you against the current variants that are now circulating. You do not need to have had a prior COVID vaccine to be eligible for the updated vaccines.

Schedule a Vaccine Appointment at Springfield Pharmacy

Are you interested in getting an updated COVID vaccine to protect yourself and your loved ones from severe illness? Here at Springfield Pharmacy, we make it convenient to get the COVID vaccine as well as flu and RSV shots to keep you healthy as cold and flu season begins. Schedule a vaccine appointment today to get all your vaccines in one convenient stop at your local Springfield Pharmacy!