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CDC Approves Second Bivalent Booster for Some. Find Out if You're Eligible

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A health care worker wears a face shield and blue surgical mask and goggles, and holds a needle full of vaccine up.
Ria Garcia, licensed vocational nurse with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, draws up mpox vaccines at the Balboa Sports Complex vaccine site in Encino on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022. (Sarah Reingewirtz/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images)

For months, many people have been wondering, “When can I get a second bivalent COVID booster?” — especially if they got their first bivalent booster seven months ago, in September 2022, back when these shots were first authorized.

Now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have announced that as of Wednesday, certain people who are at higher risk of severe illness, hospitalization or death from COVID can get a second bivalent booster shot from Moderna or Pfizer — specifically, people age 65 and older, and people who are immunocompromised.

In a statement Wednesday, the CDC said that offering this second bivalent booster dose would offer “more flexibility for people at higher risk who want the option of added protection from additional COVID-19 vaccine doses.”

This decision came after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday amended the emergency use authorizations of the Moderna and Pfizer bivalent vaccines “to simplify the vaccination schedule for most individuals” — including offering these second booster doses to certain people. The CDC also agreed with the FDA that anyone who does not have their primary series of vaccines should now just go straight to a bivalent dose. The original monovalent COVID mRNA COVID vaccines will no longer be recommended for use in the United States, the agency says.

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“At this stage of the pandemic, data support simplifying the use of the authorized mRNA bivalent COVID-19 vaccines, and the agency believes that this approach will help encourage future vaccination,” said Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

Who can get a second bivalent booster shot?

The FDA says the following groups of people can now get a second bivalent booster:

People age 65 and older

This age group can now get a second bivalent booster shot, as long as it’s been at least four months from their original bivalent shot.

People who are immunocompromised 

This group can get a second bivalent booster shot as long as it’s been at least two months from their original bivalent shot.

Neither the FDA’s announcement nor the CDC’s announcement about second bivalent booster shots offers specifics about which conditions leading to a person being immunocompromised are included in this update. But on their site, the CDC says that you can be immunocompromised or have a weakened immune system because of a medical condition you have, or because of a treatment you’re undergoing for a medical condition.

According to the CDC, this includes people who:

  • Have cancer and are on chemotherapy.
  • Have had a solid organ transplant, like a kidney or heart, and are taking medication to keep their transplant.
  • Must use certain types of medicines for a long time that weaken the immune system, like corticosteroids (because long-term uses can lead to secondary or acquired immunodeficiency).
  • Have a weakened immune system because of “a life-long condition,” meaning they’ve inherited issues with their immune system.

How do you prove you qualify for a second bivalent booster because you’re immunocompromised or otherwise have a weakened immune system? The CDC says you can “self-attest to your moderately or severely immunocompromised status, which means you do not need any documentation of your status to receive COVID-19 vaccine doses you might be eligible to receive.” That is, you don’t need to bring any proof of any medical conditions you have to your vaccination to receive the second bivalent booster. Instead, you’ll just be asked to sign a form saying that you are indeed eligible.

If you’re unsure whether you qualify, it’s a good idea to talk with your primary care provider if you have one.

Be aware that the second bivalent booster shot recommendation for immunocompromised people does not include children age 6 months through 4 years. For that age group, said the FDA, “eligibility for additional doses will depend on the vaccine previously received.” Consider speaking to your child’s health care provider about what’s being recommended in this situation.

A Black woman wearing a blue surgical mask and a blue shirt faces the camera, leaning over to administer a vaccine to a person wearing a blue checked shirt, whose back is to the camera.
Vocational Nurse Cleopatra Oniya administers the Pfizer booster shot at a COVID vaccination and testing site decorated for Cinco de Mayo at Ted Watkins Memorial Park in Los Angeles on May 5, 2022. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

Why should certain groups consider a second bivalent booster dose?

The groups that have been newly approved by the FDA for a second bivalent booster are at higher risk of severe disease, hospitalization or death from COVID. Depending on a person’s risk factors, this may be because they have a medical condition that places them at higher risk, or because their immune system may not have mounted a sufficient response to their primary vaccine series or their first bivalent booster.

The updated booster shots, called bivalent vaccines and sometimes “the omicron booster,” target both the original strain of the coronavirus and the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants that have largely evaded previous boosters.

As NBC News has reported, BA.4 and BA.5 are no longer in circulation in the U.S., and almost 80% of current COVID cases in the United States are instead caused by the omicron subvariant XBB.1.5, according to the CDC’s variant tracker. But early data from the CDC still reported that getting a shot of the bivalent booster still reduced the risk of COVID infection from this new subvariant by nearly half.

I’m not eligible for a second bivalent booster shot yet. How long will I have to wait?

If you’re not among one of the groups approved by the FDA for a second bivalent shot now, you’ll most likely have to wait until the fall.

Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, infectious disease expert at UCSF, told KQED in February that most healthy people who are up to date on their primary COVID vaccine series should probably expect to get another booster shot after about a year.

“All roads lead to an annual COVID booster,” Chin-Hong said. “We know so far that immunity from the booster in general should last for about a year.”

Back in January, the FDA convened a committee to propose reducing the schedule for the COVID vaccine for most people to a single annual dose in the fall or winter — much like the flu shot. The agency now says it’ll hold a meeting of that same committee in June to discuss “the strain composition of the COVID-19 vaccines for fall of 2023.”

That means there’s one potential plus of waiting longer to get your bivalent booster: Unlike the second bivalent booster that the FDA has just approved for certain groups, this dose later in 2023 may likely be updated to match whatever COVID variant is dominating at that time.

If I’m eligible, where can I find a second bivalent booster shot near me?

The first appointments for second doses of the bivalent booster for those who qualify will almost certainly become available at Bay Area pharmacies. This is because pharmacies take their guidance from the federal level.

Other vaccination sites in the Bay Area, like county-run locations, may have to wait a little longer, for the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup to approve second doses of the bivalent booster for these groups. Once this group of scientists approves the FDA and CDC’s decision, these boosters will be able to roll out far more widely across California (and Nevada, Oregon and Washington).

Remember that a certain location may only be offering a certain type of booster, whether that’s Moderna or Pfizer.

1. Find a second bivalent booster shot through a local pharmacy

Several pharmacy chains are offering online appointments for the coronavirus vaccine booster, and some also offer walk-in boosters with no appointment:

2. Find a second bivalent booster shot through My Turn

My Turn is the state’s tool that allows Californians to schedule vaccination appointments, as supplies allow. You can also try to find a walk-in appointment through My Turn.

Remember that it may take a little while for My Turn to start offering second doses of the bivalent booster shot for eligible people.

When appointments do become available, you can visit the My Turn page and select “Make an Appointment.” My Turn will ask for your information, including the ZIP code or location you’d like to use to search for vaccine appointments. You can give your home location or input other locations to see which sites are available farther from home.

If you can’t travel to a clinic for your booster shot because of health or transportation issues, you can note this when registering on My Turn, and representatives from the California Department of Public Health will call you to arrange an in-home visit or transportation.

If you don’t have an email address or a cellphone number, or you have questions, you can call the California COVID-19 hotline at (833) 422-4255 (Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–8 p.m. PT, Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m.–5 p.m PT) and sign up over the phone. English-speaking and Spanish-speaking operators are available. Callers needing information in other languages will be connected to a translation service that offers assistance in over 250 languages.

Blue-gloved hands administer a vaccine into a shoulder.
Rufus Peoples receives his booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine during an Oakland County Health Department vaccination clinic at the Southfield Pavilion on Aug. 24, 2021, in Southfield, Michigan. (Emily Elconin/Getty Images)

3. Find a second bivalent booster shot through your county

Visit your county’s public health website to learn how they are vaccinating their residents. Remember that it may take a little while for county-run vaccination sites to start offering second doses of the bivalent booster shot for eligible people — and that many counties may have closed several of their vaccination sites at this stage of the pandemic.

Find your Bay Area county in our list.

4. Find a second bivalent booster shot through your health care provider

If you have health insurance, check with your provider to see whether they can already offer a second bivalent booster shot. If you don’t have health insurance but get medical care through a city- or county-run provider, you can check with that location. Remember that it may take a little while for providers to start offering second bivalent booster shots.

Read more about how to find a second bivalent booster shot for eligible people.

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