The U.S. approved updated COVID-19 vaccines Monday, hoping to rev up protection against the latest coronavirus strains and blunt any surge this fall and winter.
The Food and Drug Administration decision opens the newest shots from Moderna and Pfizer and its partner BioNTech to most Americans even if they’ve never had a coronavirus vaccination. It’s part of a shift to treat fall updates of the COVID-19 vaccine much like getting a yearly flu shot.
There’s still another step: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must sign off. A CDC advisory panel is set to issue recommendations Tuesday on who most needs the updated shots. Vaccinations could begin later this week, and both the COVID-19 and flu shot can be given at the same visit.
COVID-19 hospitalizations have been rising since late summer although –- thanks to some lasting immunity from prior vaccinations and infections –- not nearly as much as this time last year.
But protection wanes over time and the coronavirus continually churns out new variants that can dodge prior immunity. It’s been a year since the last time the vaccines were tweaked.
The newest shots target an omicron variant named XBB.1.5. That specific strain is no longer dominant but it’s close enough to coronavirus strains causing most COVID-19 illnesses today that FDA determined it would offer good cross-protection.
These newest shots replace combination vaccines that mixed protection against the original coronavirus strain and even older omicron variants. Like earlier versions, they’re expected to be most protective against severe illness, hospitalization and death, rather than mild infection.
And on Tuesday the CDC officially recommended that “everyone 6 months and older get an updated COVID-19 vaccine”. Your Local Epidemiologist has some recommendations for when you should get your next shot, based on when you got your previous one and/or when you were last infected. We got ours pretty early on last time and haven’t had any infections since then, so I’m thinking we’ll probably get on it in the next couple of weeks. Don’t want to rush in too quickly because you want the max protection you can get going into winter, but you also don’t want to wait so long that you catch it in the interim. Cases are on the rise and most people aren’t up to date on their shots, so calculate your risk carefully. CNN has more.