Fact-checking claims about the new COVID boosters

Our VERIFY team talked with a Johns Hopkins doctor to fact-check common concerns about the new COVID-19 booster.

Has the new booster been tested on humans? Is there a waiting period between this and the and the others? The VERIFY team is making sure you have the facts before you get the updated COVID-19 booster vaccine.

We took some common questions and concerns to Amesh Adalja, MD, Senior Scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

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Claims: This booster only protects against omicron not any of the other variants.

False: “This booster is known as a bivalent booster, bi meaning two, and it targets the original version of the virus as well as the ba.4, ba.5 version of Omicron,” Dr. Adalja said.

Claims: The new COVID-19 booster uses the same mNRA technology as the previous ones.

True: “These are using mRNA technology that is exactly the same as was in the original vaccines for Pfizer and Moderna,” Dr. Adalja said.

Claims: If you did not get any of the previous boosters, you should get those first, then get the updated booster.

False: “If you’re above the age of 12, you should get boosted with the bivalent booster is now available. The other version for people older than 12 is not going to be available anymore,” Dr. Adalja said.

Claims: I should wait for the next booster to make certain I get the latest and most protective vaccine.

False: “If you are somebody, especially somebody at high risk for severe disease, you should get boosted as soon as possible with the current booster that is available to you,” Dr. Adalja said.

Claims: The new booster has not been tested on humans.

True: “The new boosters do not have human data behind them. They have animal data, and they’re very similar to other boosters that were in clinical trials as well as the original version of the vaccine. So, while there’s not human data, there’s no expectation that there would be any different safety profile for these booster vaccinations. The question about human data is more about understanding how protective they’re going to be above and beyond the original boosters,” Dr. Adalja said.

Claims: It is safe for children 12 and over to get the Pfizer updated booster.

True: “The Pfizer booster is emergency use authorized for children above the age of 12. And there’s no safety concern. If they are to get it. There are still some questions about how beneficial it is in lower-risk individuals, but it’s certainly a safe booster to get,” Dr. Adalja said.

Claims: There is a waiting period between booster vaccines.

True: “If you have gotten the booster in the last two months you should wait that two-month period to make sure that you actually benefit strongly from the new booster because there may be some interference that occurs if the boosters are spaced too close together,” Dr. Adalja said.

Claims: COVID-19 vaccines will become a yearly shot.

Too early to tell: “It’s unclear how COVID-19 vaccine boosters will be needed. I think it comes back to understanding the goals of our vaccination program. Is it to prevent all infections or to prevent severe disease? We also need to look and see what happens in the terms in terms of variants how much more evolution are we going to see in this virus away from the ba.4 ba.5 variant. So, I don’t think is something we can telegraph at this point,” Dr. Adalja said.

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