New guidance for COVID-19 vaccine

Published 11:18 am Thursday, April 27, 2023

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The Virginia Health Department (VDH) has implemented changes for the COVID-19 vaccine in its scheduling and makeup.

On Wednesday, April 19, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) announced its new and simplified COVID-19 vaccine guidance allowing those with a higher risk of infection to receive an optional additional dose of the bivalent mRNA vaccine.

According to Christy Gray, director of the Division of Immunization at VDH, this bivalent mRNA vaccine is not brand new as it has been out for around nine months. The vaccines have shifted to this new one as the original vaccine that only targeted the original strand of the virus is no longer available.

The bivalent mRNA vaccine is different from the previous monovalent mRNA vaccine previously offered as it has two strains, the omicron BA.4/BA.5 strains and the original strain instead of only one strain. Having both strands gives the body more protection and antibodies to fight against the virus.

“Definitely talk to your doctor about any history or underlying medical conditions,” said Gray. “This vaccine is the one to get if you haven’t gotten the others.”

All mRNA COVID-19 vaccines administered in Virginia will be the bivalent mRNA vaccine and given on a simplified administration schedule. This means that those who have not received a bivalent mRNA vaccine dose will be able to receive a single dose. This includes young children who have completed their primary vaccination series, older children, adolescents and adults under the age of 65. Others, including young children who haven’t completed their primary series, adults aged 65 years and older and persons with compromised immunity, may receive two or more doses of the bivalent mRNA vaccine.

Currently, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech are offering this vaccine. According to the VDH, Novavax and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen currently do not have authorized bivalent vaccines and will remain available in their current formulations on their current schedules.

“I want to remind everyone to do everything we can to stay healthy,” said Gray. “Make sure to wash your hands, stay home if you’re sick and stay up to date on your boosters to keep yourself and others safe.”

The Piedmont Health District offers bivalent COVID-19 primary and booster vaccines at its daily local health department walk-in clinics. The vaccine clinics will be at Charlotte on Mondays, Lunenburg and Prince Edward on Tuesdays, Cumberland on Wednesdays and Buckingham on Thursdays.