DHS discusses updated COVID-19 booster recommendations

As the fall season approaches, cold and flu concerns begin to rise.
Published: Sep. 7, 2022 at 10:28 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - As the fall season approaches, cold and flu concerns begin to rise.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has updated its COVID-19 booster recommendations, hoping to combat newer strains of the virus.

Approximately 65% of Wisconsin residents have received the COVID-19 vaccine. Only 35% of those people have gotten a booster shot. The DHS hopes the new bivalent vaccine increases the number of people boosted.

Officials say the new bivalent shot includes protection against the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron variants.

The updated Pfizer booster is recommended for those 12 and older. The updated Moderna booster is recommended for those 18 and older.

Dr. Ryan Westergaard, the chief medical officer of the DHS Bureau of Communicable Diseases, explained how this booster is different from others.

“Vaccines work by triggering the immune system in a variety of ways, not just through antibodies,” Westergaard said. “So the modifications updating the COVID-19 boosters was to optimize the specificity of the antibodies for the circulating variants to hopefully be a much closer match.”

Westergaard said there isn’t much evidence yet to suggest how much more protection bivalent will provide.

“We will be able to answer that question as more data comes in,” Westergaard said. “I think the evidence that we do have says that this is a step forward and can optimize or strengthen the level of protection we have, even if it’s not a huge difference in comparison to the existing vaccines.”

While it’s not yet widely available, Public Health Madison Dane County says they hope to receive a shipment of bivalent doses within the next week.

“The updated boosters will be coming soon,” PHMDC communications coordinator Morgan Finke said. “As soon as we have more information, we’ll be sharing that in the coming days.”

For the latest on vaccine availability near you, you can go to vaccines.gov.