Should you get the updated COVID-19 shot in time for Chinese New Year? Here’s what you

For the record, you are considered fully vaccinated if you have had two doses of mRNA or three doses of the Sinovac, Sinopharm vaccine, as of Feb 13, 2022. But if your last dose was before May 20, 2021, your full vaccination status will lapse. To maintain your full vaccination status, you should have taken the booster vaccine dose before Feb 14, 2022.

You may have questions about the yearly booster shot, especially during this festive period of visiting and mingling – and especially when the elderly in your family will be exposed. For instance, is it too late to go for the updated booster now? How will it protect against the new JN.1 strain? And if you’ve recovered from COVID-19 recently, does it mean you can go visiting without taking the booster?

Does the new strain JN.1 create more uncomfortable and serious symptoms? How are the vaccines updated to counter it? 

The new JN.1 strain creates symptoms that are very similar to those of previous Omicron variants, said Dr Lim, including sore throat, nasal congestion, runny nose, cough, fatigue and headache.

Vaccine manufacturers such as Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Novavax “have developed an updated COVID-19 vaccine for the 2023-2024 vaccination season, and it is anticipated to continue to provide protection against currently circulating strains of COVID-19, which includes JN.1”, said Dr Lim.

Like the seasonal flu virus, the COVID-19 virus will continue to mutate as time goes on, he said. “Staying protected with the updated vaccine can provide a stronger immune response against current and emerging strains compared to older versions of the vaccines and therefore, may confer better protection against COVID-19.”

My last shot was a while back. Should I get the updated vaccine then?

If you had your last vaccine dose over a year ago, you should consider getting the updated vaccine for optimal protection from the newer variants, said Dr Lim.

“It’s important to note that cases in the elderly and medically vulnerable populations do still see higher rates of hospitalisations as they tend to be more vulnerable to the virus,” said Dr Lim. “Hence, protecting yourself with the updated vaccine is important.”

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