MADISON, Wis. - An updated COVID-19 shot could be available as early as September. It would mark the first modification to the current vaccine.
The modified vaccine would be geared toward the omicron variant, so BA.4 and BA.5, the dominant omicron subvariants now. Health experts say it could be available just in time for the school year.
Health officials are anticipating the next generation of COVID-19 vaccine, an updated shot specifically targeting the omicron variant.
"You may actually get back to what we had in the beginning, which is pretty good protection in developing any symptoms at all, even if you do come in contact with BA.4, BA.5," said Dr. Jeff Pothof, UW Health.
Right now, anyone 5 years old and older is eligible for a booster shot. Pothof said the new vaccine is a bivalent one made up of two elements: the current vaccine composition and an omicron component.
"If you can identify that, make a vaccine and make it available to the public while that variant is dominant, it becomes a much more effective vaccine," said Pothof.
As Wisconsinites wait for this next generation of the vaccine, many might wonder what to do if you're currently eligible for the existing booster. Health experts say you shouldn't wait.
"Getting boosted right now in no way disqualifies you for a better and fancier booster if that’s what we end up having later this year," said Pothof.
Pothof said this is a step toward what the long-term shots might look like – an annually updated vaccine similar to the flu shot.
"It could get to something where it's more, kind of the norm for what we’re used to with vaccines, where it’s a once a year type thing," said Pothof.
So what if there's a different dominant strain by the time the updated vaccine is available? Dr. Pothof said if that happens, this updated vaccine would still be more effective than the original shot because that new variant likely is similar to BA.4 and BA.5.