I got my updated/bivalent booster in September, and I’m worried my protection is waning.
A: We don’t know yet, but the FDA may be giving guidance soon.
The VRBAC meeting happened last week, but the only official vote was to make the primary series (1st two doses) the same formula as the updated bivalent vaccine. This passed 21-0.
Without a vote, the committee voiced support for a plan to move to annual boosters in the fall similar to the process for flu shots. The specific variants included would be selected in June based on what is circulating. Additional doses could be recommended for older adults and the immunocompromised, but the details were left to be determined.
We know this leaves some unanswered questions, and doesn’t help high risk people worried about their September bivalent booster waning. VRBAC, whose remit is vaccine safety, may be leaving the policy decision to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), whose next meeting is Feb 22-24, 2023. Stay tuned…again.
Read a summary of the VRBAC meeting here.
We love this enthusiasm for vaccine protection (!), but here is currently no authorization or recommendation for additional COVID-19 boosters if you have already received the bivalent/Omicron updated shot.
The US FDA will need to give some guidance on this topic, which might happen after the upcoming January 26, 2023 VRBAC (Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee) meeting. The agenda has not been published, but the meeting topic is “Future Vaccination Regimens Addressing COVID-19,” so we expect this would be covered.
Will the FDA approve an additional dose of bivalent boosters? We really don’t know. It could be that an additional dose is approved for immunocompromised people or older age groups who are most vulnerable. It could be the committee thinks it’s better to update the formula even more for new variants before boosting again. We’ll keep you posted, and for those Big Nerds who want to watch the meeting live, you can find it here.
In the meantime, you should still feel good about your protection from severe disease if you’ve gotten the bivalent booster. It’s true that protection against infection is probably strongest in the first 2-3 months after a booster due to neutralizing antibodies, but other parts of the immune system like memory B cells and T cells give more durable protection against serious disease.
To lower your risk of infection if you’re worried about waning, use all the trusty tools we have. This includes masking in crowded indoor settings, increasing ventilation, and strategic use of rapid tests before gatherings.
Only 15.9% of Americans aged 5+ have received the bivalent booster, so we have a lot of room for improvement. Talk to your friends, family, and neighbors about it—many don’t even realize they are eligible. And we have good evidence they work.
Stay safe, stay well
Those Nerdy Girls
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