PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Federal authorities on Thursday authorized the use of new updated bivalent COVID-19 boosters for people 12 and older, and the Oregon Health Authority said updated boosters are expected to be available in Oregon as early as next week.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed a recommendation by its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and approved both the Pfizer and Moderna bivalent boosters for use. The recommendation comes after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the new mRNA bivalent boosters, which add an Omicron BA.4/5 spike protein component to the current vaccine composition, on Wednesday.
Both boosters are designed to prevent severe illness and hospitalization from a broader range of viral strains, including the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants that account for the overwhelming majority of recent COVID-19 infections in Oregon and nationally.
The updated boosters are a single dose that can be administered two months after an initial two-dose series of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or two months after a monovalent booster of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. The updated boosters can be administered regardless of which vaccine series a person received.
The Moderna bivalent booster is authorized only for persons 18 years of age and older; the Pfizer booster can be given to persons at least 12 years of age. The older monovalent vaccines are no longer authorized for booster doses.
Before the updated boosters are available in Oregon, the panel of scientific experts comprising the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, which includes Oregon, Washington, California and Nevada, must review and recommend the bivalent boosters. The group is scheduled to meet tonight.
“With fall and winter approaching with circulation of COVID-19 anticipated to increase, when most of us will spend more time indoors, the availability of safe and effective vaccine boosters offers us strong protection against the worst outcomes of COVID-19, including severe illness, hospitalizations and death,” said Dean Sidelinger, M.D. MSEd, health officer and state epidemiologist at Oregon Health Authority (OHA).
“Should the Western workgroup endorse the federal recommendations — a decision we expect, based on the safety and efficacy of the updated boosters — OHA will make the boosters available to everyone eligible in Oregon, so they can get the updated booster as soon as they’re able.”
The updated boosters simplify the current recommendations for boosters. The updated Moderna booster is for everyone 18 and older, and Pfizer’s updated booster is for everyone 12 and older. To increase accessibility to the updated boosters, OHA will open three additional high-volume sites next week and expand hours at existing sites. Details will be available on OHA's blog as the new sites open.
Health care providers, Tribal and local public health partners and pharmacies in Oregon have placed pre-orders for the boosters, and deliveries are arriving in Oregon now, with more shipments expected after the Labor Day holiday on Monday, Sept. 5. OHA encourages everyone who is interested in receiving the updated booster to check with their provider first, to see when the booster will be available, or to check OHA’s website and the Get Vaccinated Oregon tool.
OHA estimates more than 2.7 million Oregon residents are currently eligible to receive a COVID-19 bivalent booster.
With the start of flu season, OHA also encourages everyone 6 months and older to get a flu shot to protect against seasonal influenza. It is safe and effective to get a COVID-19 booster and flu shot at the same time.
The updated boosters, like all COVID-19 vaccines, are free.