January 6, 2023

5 things to know about COVID-19 vaccines and boosters

The CDC now recommends that people age 5 years and older get an updated COVID-19 booster for better protection against the most prevalent omicron variants.

The COVID-19 primary series vaccine is available to all people age 6 months and older.

Vaccines and boosters are a critical part of slowing — and eventually stopping — the spread of COVID-19, and Kaiser Permanente is committed to providing you with vaccine information as it’s available.

Here are the latest 5 things you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccines and the boosters.

Now is the time for an updated booster

The COVID-19 primary vaccines and the original boosters (also known as monovalent boosters) have been effective at preventing people from getting severely sick. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people age 5 years and older get an updated (or bivalent) COVID-19 booster for better protection against the most prevalent omicron variants. These variants are currently causing most cases in the U.S. and are predicted to continue to circulate this fall and winter.

“The updated COVID-19 boosters have been designed to better protect against the newer variants,” said Craig Robbins, MD, physician co-lead for Kaiser Permanente’s national COVID-19 vaccination program. “The newer versions of the booster strengthen the protection that has decreased since previous vaccination.”

The CDC recommends people age 5 years and older get an updated COVID-19 booster. The CDC has also expanded access to the updated vaccine to children age 6 months to 4 years. Find out which booster is right for you.

*People 18 or older should be aware of the rare risk of blood clots with low platelets after vaccination with the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, and that this risk has not been seen with the 2 mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) or the Novavax vaccine. For more information, visit the CDC vaccine page.
Who can get it? Which one? When are you eligible?
Anyone 6 months to 4 years who is currently completing the Pfizer primary vaccination series Updated Pfizer primary vaccine Children 6 months through 4 years who have received 2 primary doses of the original Pfizer vaccine can receive the updated vaccine as a third primary dose
Anyone 6 months to 5 years who has completed the 2-shot Moderna primary vaccination Updated Moderna booster 2 months after primary vaccination (2-shot series) with Moderna
5-year-olds who have completed 2-dose Pfizer primary vaccination Updated Pfizer booster 2 months after primary vaccination (2-shot series) with Pfizer
Anyone 6 years or older Updated Pfizer or updated Moderna booster 2 months after primary vaccination (2-shot series with Moderna, Pfizer, or Novavax or single-dose J&J*) or most recent original booster

For the latest information on the COVID-19 vaccines and how to find an appointment in your area, visit kp.org/covidvaccine.

Vaccines OK'd for 6 months and older

The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 primary series vaccines are available to all people age 6 months and older.

The Pfizer vaccine for children 6 months to 4 years is administered in 3 doses, with the initial 2 doses given 3 weeks apart followed by a third dose given at least 8 weeks after the second dose.

The Pfizer vaccine for children 5 through 11 is administered as a 2-dose primary series, 3 weeks apart.

The Moderna vaccine for children 6 months through 11 years is administered in 2 doses given 4 weeks apart. The appropriate dose is determined by your child’s age at the time of the dose, regardless of the child’s weight or age at the time of a prior dose.

Members should check kp.org for availability of appointments for the updated boosters. COVID-19 vaccine locations can also be found at vaccines.gov.

Novavax OK’d, but availability limited

The CDC has recommended the Novavax vaccine as another primary series option, and it has been authorized by the FDA for individuals 12 and older.

Unlike the mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna, which use genetic material to stimulate an immune response, Novavax is a protein-based vaccine that uses different technology to generate an immune response. Protein-based vaccines have been used for decades to protect people from hepatitis, shingles, and other viral infections. More information on Novavax can be found at kp.org.

Kaiser Permanente has a limited supply of Novavax, and it is not available at all locations. Kaiser Permanente members can go to kp.org to find out when and where appointments are available for vaccination with Novavax. COVID-19 vaccination locations can also be found at vaccines.gov.

Get your flu shot, too

It’s also important to get the flu shot as soon as possible. It’s safe to get the flu shot and COVID-19 booster at the same time. It’s especially important for kids to stay up to date on COVID-19 and flu vaccinations this year as cases of flu, COVID-19, and RSV — or respiratory syncytial virus — are already on the rise. And there isn’t yet a vaccination for RSV.

The good news is many of the precautions doctors recommend to prevent the spread of COVID-19 can also help protect you from flu and RSV:

  • Wash your hands often
  • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands
  • Sneeze or cough into your arm
  • Avoid close contact with sick people
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Continue to use masks in high-risk settings

Regardless of your vaccination status, the CDC recommends continued mask use in communities where serious cases of COVID-19 are straining the health system. You should also still wear a mask if you are personally at high risk, when you are with people at higher risk for severe illness, or if you wish to be cautious. And regardless of local conditions, you should wear a mask if you have COVID-19 symptoms or a positive test or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Visit the CDC website to learn about the latest guidance for your community.

Pregnant? Get vaccinated or boosted

Getting the primary vaccine series and the updated booster (being “up to date”) while pregnant can provide important protection for you and your unborn baby. The CDC recommends COVID-19 vaccination for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or who might become pregnant in the future. Additionally, there is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems in women or men.

Kaiser Permanente encourages people who have not been vaccinated to receive their primary COVID-19 vaccination series as well as the flu shot. In addition, even after being fully vaccinated, anyone with symptoms of illness should get tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible and isolate at home.