COVID-19 Enhancers Updated to match the latest omicron strains It’s about to start, and government advisers met Thursday to decide who should roll up their sleeves — and when.
The Edited shots Presented by Pfizer and rival Moderna, Americans are promising the chance to get their latest protection in yet another critical period of the pandemic. The United States continues to see tens of thousands of coronavirus cases and nearly 500 deaths each day, and those numbers are expected to rise again in the fall.
The Food and Drug Administration has authorized the new combination shots, half of the original vaccine and half of protection against the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron versions now responsible for nearly all COVID-19 infections.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisors are beginning to evaluate how best to use them. The CDC’s final decision is the last step before the shots begin.
Dr. Melinda Wharton of the CDC warned the advisory committee of the importance of “simplifying our recommendations.”
The original COVID-19 vaccines It still provides strong protection against severe disease and death, especially among younger, healthier people who have received at least one booster dose.
But these vaccines are designed to target the strain of the virus that circulated in early 2020. Effectiveness declines as new mutations appear and as long as a person’s last shot has passed. Since April, hospitalization rates for people over 65 have jumped, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
The new updated shots are only used as a booster for people who have received their initial vaccinations regardless of the brand or number of booster doses they have received so far. The Pfizer option is available for people 12 and older while the Moderna option is for adults only.
Big Unknown: Exactly how much benefit people will get from one of those extra shots.
The Food and Drug Administration has cleared updated boosters based largely on clinical trials for previous modifications to the vaccine’s prescription, including companies’ testing of shots targeting an earlier omicron strain found to be safe and able to activate virus-fighting antibodies. Rather than wait a few more months for more human testing of the BA.5 version, the agency agreed to test mice that were also shown to elicit a good immune response.
Prior to this new booster update, people 50 and older already were urged to get a second booster dose of the original vaccine — and those who saw some extra protection, especially after a longer period since the last shot, said Dr. Ruth Link-Gillis of Center for Disease Control.
She told the committee that the new compound booster “should provide at least comparable or better protection against Omicron because it would be the best match” to today’s virus strains.
However, many scientists say, to get the most benefit, people will need to wait longer between the last vaccine and a new vaccination than the two months set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as the minimum.
Virologist Andrew Pekos of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said that a four- to six-month wait between vaccinations is generally recommended. If someone already has a lot of antibodies in their bloodstream, another dose won’t increase that number, essentially wasting them.
“You usually want the booster vaccine spacing,” said Pecos, who keeps a close eye on where the CDC draws that line. “These recommendations are going to be really important in terms of how good this vaccine is.”
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