As the COVID-19 virus continues to undergo mutations, the development of effective vaccines remains crucial. In Australia, new monovalent boosters are set to be available from December 11th, offering improved protection against currently circulating strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Pfizer’s monovalent vaccine will be accessible to individuals aged five years and older, while Moderna’s version can be administered to those aged 12 years and older.
Who is eligible for these new boosters? How do they differ from earlier ones? Do they work? Are they safe?
Eligibility for the new boosters remains the same since September, with recommendations from the Australian Technical Advisory Group (ATAGI). Australians aged over 75 are advised to get vaccinated if it has been six months or more since their last dose. People aged 65 to 74 are recommended to have a booster if they haven’t already done so. Additionally, adults aged 18 to 64 with underlying risk factors can also consider a booster if they haven’t received one. However, additional doses are not recommended for children without underlying conditions.
The term “monovalent” refers to the early COVID-19 vaccines that targeted the original viral strain. As the virus mutated, new variants emerged, such as Omicron, leading to “immune evasion,” where the original vaccines no longer provided sufficient immunity. To address this, bivalent vaccines were developed, targeting specific subvariants alongside the ancestral strain. However, with further evolution of Omicron, the vaccines have gone back to being monovalent. The new booster targets a specific subvariant called XBB.1.5, also known as Kraken.
The efficacy of these monovalent boosters has been supported by research submitted by Pfizer and Moderna to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Laboratory studies and clinical trials have demonstrated that these updated vaccines produce adequate levels of antibodies against multiple emerging variants, including XBB and EG.5. Furthermore, these updated vaccines have been approved in various countries, including the United States, Europe, Canada, Japan, and Singapore.
Overall, the introduction of these new monovalent boosters provides an improved defense against the evolving SARS-CoV-2 virus, offering hope in the ongoing battle against COVID-19.
1. Who is eligible for the new monovalent boosters?
Eligibility remains the same as the previous recommendations from September. Individuals aged over 75, those aged 65 to 74, and adults aged 18 to 64 with underlying risk factors can consider getting the booster. Children without underlying conditions are not currently recommended to receive additional doses.
2. How do monovalent boosters differ from earlier ones?
Monovalent boosters target a specific subvariant of the evolving Omicron strain, while earlier boosters targeted both subvariants and the ancestral strain.
3. Do the new monovalent boosters work?
Research submitted by Pfizer and Moderna, as well as preliminary studies, show that the updated monovalent vaccines produce adequate levels of antibodies against multiple emerging variants, including XBB and EG.5.
4. Are the new monovalent boosters safe?
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in Australia has approved these vaccines, following the approval of similar vaccines in other countries. As with any vaccine, potential side effects should be discussed with healthcare professionals.