The Food and Drug Administration has approved two updated COVID-19 vaccines.

The new messenger RNA, or mRNA, vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech are formulated to better target variants that are currently circulating and will replace outdated vaccines.

A nurse administers a Moderna COVID-19 booster vaccine at an inoculation station next to Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss., Friday, Nov. 18, 2022. U.S. regulators on Tuesday, April 18, 2023, cleared another COVID-19 booster dose for older adults and people with weak immune systems so they can shore up protection this spring — while taking steps to make coronavirus vaccinations simpler for everyone else.(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
A nurse administers a Moderna COVID-19 booster vaccine (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Mayo Clinic (by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The new vaccine approved by the FDA essentially is a COVID-19 vaccine targeting a different strain of the COVID-19 virus than was in the original vaccine or bivalent vaccines that came out last year. It’s still a COVID-19 vaccine, but it’s now targeting the XBB.1.5 strain, which is the virus that’s been circulating throughout the U.S. and most parts of the world since the beginning of this year.

Is it considered a booster?

The updated COVID-19 vaccine isn’t exactly a booster. It’s likened to the updated influenza vaccine that comes out each year. The influenza vaccine is updated each year as the strains that they protect against change year from year.

Who should receive the 2023–2024 COVID-19 vaccine?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel of vaccine experts voted to recommend the new 2023–2024 COVID-19 vaccine to all Americans age 6 months and older.

The COVID-19 vaccine definitely should be taken by those at the highest risk of complications from COVID-19, and that includes older people, people with weakened immune systems and young children. These are the people that we are seeing have significant complications from COVID.

Health experts also are urging people to get vaccinated against influenza. Experts say it’s safe to get both the COVID-19 and flu vaccines at the same time. Both vaccines have been shown to prevent the most serious complications of COVID-19 and the flu, which include hospitalization and death.

The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone who is 6 months and older, and the groups that benefit the most from the vaccine, again, are the same kind of people who benefit from the COVID-19 vaccine because they don’t tolerate influenza as well as others. This includes older people, immunocompromised and people with underlying heart, lung, liver or kidney disease.