RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond and Henrico Health Districts began administering doses of the new bivalent COVID-19 booster vaccine on Wednesday, Sept. 14. Both Pfizer and Moderna offer versions of the vaccine, which is now recommended by both the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As opposed to the previously distributed monovalent boosters, which were formulated only to protect against the initial strain of the coronavirus, these bivalent vaccines protect against different variants of the virus — like Omicron BA.4 and BA.5.

New COVID-19 bivalent booster shot available through Richmond and Henrico Health District’s vaccine clinic. Courtesy of Sierra Krug.

Representatives with RHHD said public interest in the bivalent booster appeared promising, with 70 appointments on just the first day that the new vaccine was made available. 8News stopped by the vaccine clinic to speak with those who were getting their shots. Richmond resident Holly Draper said she’s been waiting for this moment.

“The second I heard about it I was in line ready to get it,” Draper said.

Throughout the duration of the pandemic, Draper managed to dodge the COVID-19 virus. She prioritizes doing whatever she can to continue to maintain, or strengthen, that protection.

“I love being vaccinated,” Draper said. “I love the privileges it offers me. I like that I don’t really worry about COVID in my day-to-day life.”

According to the CDC, versions of the Omicron variant make up approximately 87.5% of all COVID-19 cases in the country. Catherine Long with RHHD said variations of the Omicron variant still dominate the community’s COVID-19 case profile. As such, having a tool to combat its spread is a gamechanger.

“They protect against BA.4 and BA.5, which are the most common variants we’re seeing,” Long said.

Other residents also made sure to book an appointment as soon as possible. William Schmidt said he had no hesitations signing up for the new bivalent booster. He views getting the vaccine as not only a protective measure for himself, but as a way to do one’s part for one’s neighbors and community.

“I think it’s just good for the community to get as many people vaccinated as possible,” Schmidt said. “So we can get herd immunity and stop this thing from changing and becoming different forms of COVID.”

Health professionals believe this could be a critical milestone in the battle against COVID-19, and that it’s another sign of a reframed perspective — viewing the pandemic as endemic. Long said this version of the vaccine can be compared to the flu vaccine. It’s been formulated to match and combat the current state of the virus. This means people can expect to continue receiving slightly varied versions of the vaccine on a more long-term basis. Draper noted parallels between her bivalent vaccine experience and the flu vaccine in more ways than one.

“It’s very similar to the flu vaccine,” Draper said. “It doesn’t hurt you. Just do it; save your community, save yourself.”

These bivalent booster vaccines replace the monovalent boosters that health departments and pharmacies had previously offered. Any adult who books a COVID-19 booster appointment will receive either a Pfizer or Moderna bivalent booster.