Am I Still Protected?

Nursing giving older man a vaccination shot

We’ve learned that the COVID-19 virus changes over time. Are you wondering if the COVID-19 vaccine dose(s) you received months ago are still effective?

We’ve got all the facts about the new bivalent COVID-19 booster from Rebecca Bell, MD, pediatric critical care physician at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital, and Tim Lahey, MD, infectious disease expert at the UVM Medical Center.

When can I get the new COVID-19 booster?

Now. In Vermont, the Department of Health is offering walk-in clinics and some local pharmacies are offering appointments. In northern New York, pharmacies are offering the updated vaccine and you can make your appointment here.

Primary care medical offices will be able to start placing orders for the new, bivalent COVID-19 vaccine in mid-September. If you have a question, please call your provider or send a message through MyChart.

What if I just got the original booster? Am I still protected?

Yes. The original (monovalent) version of the COVID-19 booster should protect against serious disease, hospitalization and death. Two or more months after you've received your last monovalent dose, you can receive the updated bivalent COVID-19 booster, which includes components for the original COVID-19 strain and the latest variants. We are optimistic based on prior studies that the bivalent booster will offer enhanced protection from serious disease, hospitalization and death.

Can my children get a booster?

Children age 12 to 17: Adolescents can receive the new bivalent booster now, following the same guidelines as above.

Children age 5 to 11: The bivalent booster is currently being studied for this age group, so the timing of when it will be available is unknown. However, these children should receive a monovalent booster at least five months after the second dose of their primary COVID-19 vaccine series if they have not received it yet.

Children age 6 months to 4 years: These children should receive their primary COVID-19 vaccination series.

My recent COVID-19 booster appointment was canceled. Why?

If you had an appointment coming up for the original COVID-19 booster shots, those appointments were canceled in anticipation of the updated bivalent booster vaccine. This new booster should produce better protective immune responses.

What if I recently had COVID-19?

It is safe to get any COVID-19 vaccine once you are out of isolation from infection. However, since your immune system gets a temporary boost from infection, you may want to wait three months to get your booster to gain the most impact.

Can I get the bivalent booster at the same time as other immunizations?

Yes. You can receive other immunizations like the flu vaccine or routine childhood vaccines at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine or booster.

Which bivalent vaccine should I get: Pfizer or Moderna?

Both have been approved and recommended for use in adults age 18 and older. You do not need to receive the same manufacturer’s vaccine that you received for the primary series. The bivalent booster made by Pfizer is approved for children and adolescents age 12 to 17 as well.

I heard that the FDA pulled approval for the original vaccine. Is that true?

No, the FDA did not pull approval for the original vaccine. It is still safe and very effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death. The original monovalent vaccine is still the only approved COVID-19 vaccine for the primary series for everyone age 6 months and older. 

With the increased protection offered by the new bivalent vaccine booster, the original vaccine is no longer approved as a booster for people 12 years and older. The monovalent vaccine booster is still available for children age 5 to 11. Think of the COVID-19 booster like the flu vaccine: Every year, a new flu vaccine is designed to protect people against that season’s variants of the flu virus.

I’ve never been vaccinated. How do I know it's safe?

At this point, more than 12 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered worldwide under intense scientific scrutiny. While many people experience short-lived side effects like muscle aches or a low-grade fever, serious side effects are extremely rare. The benefits of vaccination, on the other hand, are huge. Hospitalization and death rates have plummeted. Plus, COVID-19 vaccines provide the best protection against missed days of work, rescheduled vacations and long COVID. In short, COVID-19 vaccines are safe, and they can save your life.

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