The Washington Department of Health (DOH) and healthcare providers across the state will shortly begin offering bivalent booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, which are targeted at the Omicron variant.
The DOH’s decision comes after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the vaccines, in addition to recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee and Immunizations Practices, and Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup.
“The updated COVID-19 boosters are formulated to better protect against the most recently circulating COVID-19 variant,” said Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, CDC Director. “They can help restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination and were designed to provide broader protection against newer variants.”
As of September 1, there has been a total of 507,596 reported COVID-19 cases in King County, with 383 new cases reported. The bivalent vaccines combine Pfizer and Moderna’s original COVID-19 vaccine compositions with BA.4 and BA.5 spike protein components, which provide additional protection through targeting more transmissible and immune-evading variants.
“We’re excited this updated bivalent booster will help increase protection against the Omicron variants as we head into the fall season,” said Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, MD, MPH, Chief Science Officer at the DOH.
The state is allocated 191,100 bivalent booster doses, which are currently en route to providers across Washington. According to the DOH, the bivalent booster doses will be available this week. Weekly allocations of additional doses will follow, which will build inventory levels over time, stated the DOH.
While the primary COVID-19 vaccine series will stay the same, updated booster recommendations from the DOH include:
- Those ages 12-17 who have completed the primary vaccine series can receive Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent booster doses at least two months after the most recent dose
- Those ages 18 and older who have completed the primary vaccine series can receive a Pfizer or Moderna bivalent booster at least two months after the most recent dose
- Those ages 5-11 who have completed Pfizer’s primary vaccine series should continue to receive the company’s original monovalent booster at least five months after the most recent dose
- Children ages 6 months- 4 years are not currently authorized to receive any COVID-19 booster dose
The DOH also mentions that those who are ages 12 and older, who have appointments to receive COVID-19 booster doses, will need to contact their providers to ensure the bivalent booster is available, since the former monovalent booster dose is no longer authorized for this age group
“As SARS CoV-2 changes, so must the tools we use against it–this update helps ensure that vaccines and boosters will continue to be the most effective ways to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death, and keep those most at-risk healthy and safe,” said Kwan-Gett.
The DOH expects the initial demand for the bivalent booster doses to exceed available inventory, and urges Washingtonians to remain patient.