Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the latest information after updated omicron booster shots from Pfizer and Moderna were authorized by the FDA on Aug. 31, 2022 and later recommended by the CDC.
The BA.5 subvariant of omicron, which remains dominant in the U.S. right now, is more resistant to antibody protection from vaccines and prior infection than earlier omicron strains.
That’s left some people wondering when they might be able to get another COVID-19 vaccine that targets omicron and its subvariants, Google Trends data show.
A VERIFY reader also asked the team when vaccines for the new COVID-19 variants will be available.
Are COVID-19 vaccine boosters for omicron available to the public?
Yes, COVID-19 vaccine boosters for omicron are available to the public.
WHAT WE FOUND
On Aug. 31, 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized COVID-19 boosters shots with an omicron component from Pfizer and Moderna. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also signed off on the updated boosters one day after the FDA authorization.
The bivalent vaccines, also referred to by the FDA as “updated boosters,” add omicron BA.4 and BA.5 spike proteins to the original COVID-19 vaccine composition. This is aimed at “helping to restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination” by targeting the more contagious and immune-evasive omicron subvariants, the CDC says.
Pfizer’s omicron vaccine is authorized for use as a single booster dose in people 12 and older, while Moderna’s shot is authorized for those 18 and older, according to the FDA.
The FDA has not advised manufacturers to change the vaccine for primary vaccination, since the authorized and approved COVID-19 vaccines provide a “base of protection against serious outcomes of COVID-19” caused by circulating variants.
Moderna announced on July 29 that the U.S. government purchased 66 million doses of its updated COVID-19 vaccine booster candidate, which contains the original Spikevax vaccine and mRNA from the omicron BA.4/BA.5 strain.
The company is also advancing another booster shot option that contains the BA.1 omicron strain. Several sublineages of omicron, including BA.1, BA.4 and BA.5, share some of the same mutations, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the U.S. government has also purchased 105 million COVID-19 vaccine boosters from Pfizer. Those boosters include those adapted for omicron, Pfizer said on June 29.
Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine is not yet FDA authorized as a booster shot, but the company does have an omicron shot in the works.
In late May, Novavax announced that it would begin phase 3 of another trial to determine the effectiveness of its omicron strain vaccine as a booster dose in producing better immune responses to the omicron variant compared to its newly authorized vaccine without a booster. The trial participants include people who have received either a two-dose primary series or three-dose booster series of an mRNA vaccine.
More from VERIFY: No, the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine isn’t authorized as a booster shot yet
Adults who haven’t received their first booster dose, especially those who are at high risk of severe disease, should receive one soon since COVID-19 cases are rising, and not wait for an updated booster, the FDA says. Once boosters with an omicron component are available, people should consider getting one at an appropriate time following their prior booster shot.
Those who are 50 and older and haven’t received a second booster shot can still do so and receive an updated booster in the fall, according to the FDA.
“Receiving a booster now will not prevent individuals from receiving an updated booster following an appropriate interval between doses once the FDA reviews the variant-specific vaccines and authorizes them for use,” the spokesperson said.