What You Should Know About the Latest COVID Vaccine Updates
This information was reviewed and approved by Carrie A. Horn, MD (September 2023).
A lot has changed since the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. New vaccines have become available. Public policies have shifted. The virus itself has mutated (multiple times). With another high infection season approaching, it’s important to stay up to date with the latest vaccine guidelines so you and your loved ones have the best protection.
Variants like Delta, Omicron and the recent Omicron variants XBB.1.5 (Kraken) and EG.5 (Eris) have prompted vaccine makers to update the original vaccine. These updates target the latest versions of the COVID virus. As of September 2023, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have recommended getting an updated COVID vaccine for the fall and winter.
Vaccines still offer the best protection against COVID-related hospitalization and death. The latest vaccines also lower the chance of suffering from the complications of long COVID. These updated vaccines have been monitored intensely for safety, and hundreds of millions of Americans have been vaccinated to date.
Recommendations by Age
The CDC recommends that everyone aged 5 years and older should get one updated Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to be fully protected. Unlike the original COVID vaccine, the latest version is administered as a single dose. According to the Food and Drug Administration, people in this age group can get an updated vaccine regardless of which type of COVID vaccine or how many doses you previously had. Children aged 6 months to 4 years will need a total of three doses to be fully protected. If you have recently been vaccinated, make sure at least two months have passed before receiving an updated dose.
People 65 and older can get a second dose of the updated vaccine four or more months after receiving their first shot.
People who have immune systems that are moderately or severely compromised can get a second dose of the updated vaccine two or more months after receiving their first shot.
A Third Option and Johnson & Johnson
The Novavax COVID series is a traditional protein-based vaccine, administered in two doses. This vaccine is available for anyone 12 years and older. A Novavax booster shot is only available for people aged 18 and older.
The Johnson and Johnson vaccine is no longer available in the U.S. Existing doses of this vaccine have expired. If you previously received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you can get up to date by receiving one of the newly updated vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna.
If You Recently Had COVID
According to the CDC, you may postpone getting an updated vaccine if you’ve had an infection or a positive test result within the last three months. After you have the infection, you develop natural immunity to future COVID infections.
However, immunity to COVID fades over time. You may begin to lose some of the protection from your past infection after three months.
If you or your loved ones are at risk of severe disease consider getting vaccinated sooner rather than later.
Where To Go for Vaccinations
Gone are the days of drive-thru COVID vaccination tents (thankfully). Now, you can use the tool Vaccine.gov to find a provider or pharmacy near you that offers the latest COVID vaccine. Just click “Find COVID-19 Vaccines” on the front page and make an appointment from there.
The information on our website is medically reviewed and accurate at the time of publication. Due to the changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, information may have since changed. CDC.gov and your state’s health department may offer additional guidance.