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What you need to know about the updated bivalent boosters

The boosters will be available at all healthcare providers in Minnesota, as well as the state vaccination site at the Mall of America starting Sept. 7.

MINNEAPOLIS — In a few days, maybe even as soon as Tuesday, eligible Minnesotans will be able to receive updated COVID-19 booster shots.

The bivalent boosters, meaning they target both the original strain of the coronavirus as well as the Omicron variant, have been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In terms of eligibility, Hennepin Healthcare internist and pediatrician Dr. Hannah Lichtsinn said the window is wide open.

"A whole lot of people are eligible," she said. "Also anybody who is eligible for a booster anyways and hasn't had one is eligible for this. Also if you're up to date on boosters and it's been at least two months since your last one, also eligible. That goes for anybody 12 years old or older."

Pfizer's boosters are recommended for anyone 12 and older, while Moderna is recommended for people 18 and above.

If you haven't had a booster at all, this will be your new booster.

"Right now it's the best we can predict, we don't know what's going to come next, but we do know Omicron is the primary form of COVID that is circulating right now," Lichtsinn said.

"I think that this vaccine will offer additional protection, especially as we enter into fall and winter, which tends to be where we see more spread of respiratory viruses," she added. 

Which is why she says she's going to recommend it immediately for her family.

"Right now, kids are going back to school, our lives are about to move indoors from being outdoors all summer, and that really sets us up to being higher risk in general for getting sick from a respiratory virus," Lichtsinn said. "And that's why we get flu shots this time of year too."

The booster can be received at the same time as the flu shot, and the only case in which she might recommend people wait, is if they have an active COVID infection.

"If someone is recovering from COVID infection itself, this vaccine is less likely to help or offer any benefit," she explained. "The best thing is to wait at least a couple of months, after recovering from COVID before getting this booster."

However, even then, Lichtsinn recommended having a chat with your primary care doctor.

With immunity from the booster expected to last several months, getting boosted would cover you for the holidays and at least to give some sense of relief.

"The things to be most cautious about COVID are the severe illness from getting sick right away, but also some of those long term consequences," Lichtsinn said. "And I do see a lot of people who are continuing to struggle with long COVID symptoms from infections from two years ago now, and so anything we can do to protect ourselves is worth while."

In a release, Gov. Tim Walz announced Minnesotans will be able to receive booster shots at the state vaccination site at the Mall of America starting Sept. 7. Other state vaccination sites in Duluth, St. Paul Midway, Rochester and Moorhead will begin administering doses the following week, free-of-charge.

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