With new and more contagious omicron COVID variants emerging in recent months, researchers continue to work on a new type of booster shot that will hopefully offer enhanced protection against many different types of variants.

Several pharmaceutical companies have been working on this and according to infectious disease expert Dr. Stanley H. Weiss, a Rutgers University epidemiologist and professor at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, progress is being made.

It could be coming by fall

Weiss said Moderna has been working on a new vaccine formula “solely related to some of the newer variants, or combining that into a combination vaccine, including a booster for what was already being used, plus the new variants.”

“Word is that they are very close to having data that they are comfortable with for submission for evaluation by the FDA, and if so that could be available by the fall," he said.

Expanded protection

Pfizer may also be working on a modified vaccine that would give expanded protection against more variants.

“We also know some other pharmaceutical companies have collaborated, looking at other types of vaccines, some of them protein-based, more along the traditional approach," Weiss said.

According to the state Health Department, 54% of residents eligible to get a COVID booster shot have done so, but only 27.5% of those eligible have received a second booster. There’s been speculation that people may be waiting until a new booster formulation is available.

Don't wait till the fall

Weiss, however, said waiting is not a good idea.

“Get that second booster, that 4th shot, as soon as you are eligible. So if four or five months have passed since your first booster, get it now.”

Virus Outbreak New Jersey Vaccine
. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

He said getting a second booster will give your immune system an important boost that can better protect you from severe illness.

“By the time we might have another type of booster in the fall, it’s going to be a number of months from now. You’ll probably be almost on schedule for being able to get it,” he said.

He also said if your initial vaccines and booster were Pfizer and Moderna comes out first with a broader coverage booster in the fall, or vice versa, getting the other company's shot should be fine.

“Our evidence is probably pretty good that mixing the two mRNA vaccines, the Pfizer and Moderna, seems to be relatively safe," Weiss said.

Weiss said after initially getting Moderna vaccines, he requested and was approved for a second booster shot from Pfizer.

According to the covid19.nj.gov website, everyone age 50 and older is eligible to get a second booster shot with Pfizer or Moderna at least four months after their first boost shot.

Additionally, everyone 18 and older who got their primary  J&J shot and J&J booster at least four months ago can get a second booster shot with a Pfizer or Moderna COVID vaccine, and people 12 and old who are moderately to severely immunocompromised can get a second Pfizer or Moderna booster at least four months after their first booster shot

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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