UVA Health expert breaks down new COVID-19 booster

Published: Sep. 7, 2022 at 3:54 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - It’s time to roll up that sleeve again to help protect yourself against coronavirus. The new bivalent vaccine is approved and in the Blue Ridge Health District.

Doctor Taison Bell with UVA Health says getting these boosters as they come out are like updating your computer’s software: It will put you in better shape when it comes to potential viruses.

“This phenomena, that being an updated booster, is somewhat different than what you had before. We know that giving different kinds of vaccines will broaden the immune response. Maybe the best effect of this will be people more willing more people will be willing to get a booster,” Dr. Bell said.

Dr. Bell studies infectious diseases at UVA Health. He says this booster is different than what we have seen before since it is made to specifically target the omicron variant.

“The virus is changing over time, and what we ideally would like to do is try to stay a step ahead, obviously, but it’s evolving so fast that we at least want to try to keep track,” he said.

Dr. Bell says the goal of this updated booster is to protect against the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, which are still the dominant strains of COVID-19.

“It’s not to say that we won’t have some variant down the road. But if we’re trying to change our vaccines, and more closely track what’s in with circulating in the population, we’ll get a better immune response,” the doctor said.

Dr. Bell says data suggests combining this bivalent vaccine with the original one could provide more antibodies. He says anyone 12 and up who had their last booster at least two months ago is eligible for the Pfizer shot. Those 18 and older can get Moderna.

“For most people who got their booster already, that timeline has passed by many, many months. And so I think for the vast majority of people, they will be eligible to get it right away,” Dr. Bell said.

This is a good thing, since Dr. Bell says this is the time to get the shot.

“Even the cold weather, it decreases some of your ability to fight off infection sometimes. So those are all good reasons to make sure that your immune system is in top shape going into the fall and winter,” he said.

Vaccines are available through the BRHD now. If you want to register for one, you can go here.

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