Updated COVID-19 booster available in Michigan

Hannah Mackay
The Detroit News

COVID-19 booster shots with added protection against omicron variants are available in Michigan starting this week, the state health department announced Wednesday.

The boosters are made by Pfizer and Moderna and have been authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended their use.

Individuals aged 12 and older can receive the Pfizer booster; the Moderna booster is available for adults. The boosters must be administered a minimum of two months after an individual's primary vaccination or most recent booster shot. Individuals can receive either shot, regardless of whether or not their primary vaccines or other boosters are Moderna or Pfizer.

This August 2022 photo provided by Pfizer shows vials of the company's updated COVID-19 vaccine during production in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Bivalent booster shots contain two messenger RNA components of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, one associated with the original strain and one found in the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron variants, according to the FDA. No COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States contain live viruses or interact with recipients' DNA.

“This is great news as we go into the fall and winter when we expect cases of COVID-19 to increase,” said Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services chief medical executive.

Michigan saw a surge in COVID-19 cases last fall following the emergence of the delta variant, which was more contagious than the original strain. The omicron variant began spreading rapidly last winter and is even more contagious than delta. The newest BA.5 omicron subvariant is now the dominant strain in the United States. 

Pfizer and Moderna vaccine efficacy wanes after two doses, and breakthrough COVID-19 cases with newer variants have become more common this year, research shows. The new, updated booster shots will help restore immunity, specifically against the omicron variants, according to the CDC.

"The bivalent booster will help fight the omicron subvariants, including BA.4 and 5. COVID-19 vaccines remain our best defense against the virus, and we recommend all Michiganders stay up to date," Bagdasarian said in a news release Wednesday.

Residents can begin getting the updated boosters as they become available and vaccine providers across the state are prepared to start administration, the health department said.

Almost 6.8 million Michiganians over the age of 5 have gotten the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the health department said. Although breakthrough COVID-19 cases have become more common, vaccines significantly lower the risk for severe illness, hospitalization and death due to the virus, health experts say.

The state added 15,854 cases and 83 deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday, which included totals from the previous six days, according to MDHHS data. The numbers were down from the previous week and COVID-19 patients filled 6.8% of the state's hospital beds. 

Nine Michigan counties have "high" COVID-19 community levels, including Wayne and Macomb, while the majority are designated as "medium", according to the health department.