JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The fight against COVID continues. On Thursday night the CDC approved the rollout of new booster vaccines created by Pfizer and Moderna, which will target the Omicron strain. Millions of Americans already rolled up their sleeves for shots, and some even received boosters. So what's different about the latest booster?
First Coast News spoke with Dr. Shalika Katugaha, the System Medical Director of Infectious Disease with Baptist Health in Jacksonville about why she says these new boosters are different and who should take them.
"These boosters contain MRNA components of the virus that causes COVID for the original strain as well as the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5," said Dr. Katugaha, "it is one that looks to the past and the current circulating virus."
Dr. Kutagaha says that the combination of fighting against previous strains and current strains is unique.
"From an infectious disease perspective it's exciting that this vaccine came out because it's the first time the COVID vaccine has matched the circulating strains," said Dr. Katugaha.
The Pfizer booster is approved for anyone over the age of 12 and the Moderna booster is approved for people ages 18 and over. While Dr. Katugaha says that virus rates at Baptist Health are low right now, she adds that this booster is a preventative measure for an expected winter surge.
"Modeling data suggested that 137,000 hospitalizations could be prevented and 9,700 deaths could be prevented by rolling out this bivalent vaccine now," said Dr. Katugaha.
But what about the millions of Americans who chose not to get boosted after receiving the original vaccine and saw many parts of society roll back virus restrictions?
"I understand that it must be frustrating to get new guidelines but the truth is we're taking a cue from the virus," said Dr. Katugaha, "the virus is changing so we're changing with the virus and adapting to it. These bivalent shots will most likely help the older and more vulnerable individuals, so it's doing what we can as a community to take care of each other."
Doses of the new booster are expected to be available as early as next week.