Children as young as 5 years old are now eligible to receive an updated COVID-19 booster. The bivalent boosters, developed by Pfizer and Moderna, are designed to protect people from the currently predominant Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, as well as from the original COVID-19 strain. It’s a single dose that can be administered at least two months after completion of any primary vaccination series (Pfizer, Moderna, Novavax or Johnson & Johnson), or two months after receiving a monovalent (original) booster of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
Moderna’s pediatric bivalent vaccine is authorized for children ages 6–17, while Pfizer’s is newly authorized for children ages 5–11. This means that anyone 5 years old and up can receive a bivalent booster.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the updated booster for this age group yesterday, followed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendation and the Western States Scientific Safety Review Board’s confirmation of the decision.
“Updated boosters are our best protection as we move into the fall and winter, as respiratory viruses like COVID-19 typically spread at higher rates,” said Dean Sidelinger, M.D. M.S.Ed., health officer and state epidemiologist at Oregon Health Authority (OHA). “Adding a flu shot to your appointment with your doctor or pharmacist will also help protect as we move into the fall.”
With the authorization and release of the bivalent booster for people age 5 years and older, the original monovalent booster from Pfizer or Moderna will no longer be administered. Children under age 5 are not eligible for any booster at this time.
COVID-19 and the flu
As flu season rapidly approaches, it’s especially important that children have access to the bivalent COVID-19 booster. Oregon Health & Science University’s COVID-19 forecast predicts that both COVID-19 and flu cases will rise this fall.
That means Oregon’s hospitals, which are already strained by staffing challenges, could become overwhelmed as they care for COVID-19 patients as well as those with the flu.
For the last two years, we’ve experienced a sharp decrease in flu cases because COVID-19 precautions such as mandatory masking in public spaces also helped slow the spread of the influenza virus. However, now that the public mask mandate has been lifted and people in Oregon head back indoors for the colder weather, we are likely to experience flu activity similar to typical flu seasons before the pandemic.
Therefore, more than ever, it’s important to get a flu shot this year – along with a COVID-19 booster. And children are especially vulnerable to severe flu illness. Young children and children with certain health conditions are at increased risk for severe illness or complications that may require hospitalization.
Finding vaccines and boosters
To find the new COVID-19 bivalent booster, check our blog post listing OHA’s high-volume and community vaccination clinics, or use the Get Vaccinated Oregon (GVO) tool to search among all settings (pharmacies, etc.). The GVO also lets you search for vaccination locations by vaccine brand, accessibility and age. Oregon already has Moderna’s bivalent booster now authorized for children as young as 6 years old, although there has been limited supply. Pfizer’s new booster for children as young as 5 years old should arrive and be available in Oregon next week.
Flu shots are generally available at any pharmacy or doctor’s office and are free with insurance, including Oregon Health Plan. Without insurance, the average cost of a flu shot is around $40. Call your health care provider or local pharmacy to schedule a flu shot. You can also use this federal locator tool to find a flu vaccine near you.
If you need help finding a health care provider, a COVID-19 vaccination or booster or flu shot, call 211.