The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) voted on Tuesday to recommend new COVID-19 boosters for all Americans aged six months and older. The booster targets the XBB.1.5 omicron subvariant, which currently accounts for about 3% of cases in the country, as per the CDC’s Nowcast tracker.
While this subvariant is a primary target, healthcare professionals argue that the booster could also offer protection against other newer strains, such as EG.5 and BA.2.86, which have been causing an increase in infections. Both Pfizer and Moderna confirm that the booster includes coverage for the mutated offshoot of omicron BA.2.86, also known as Pirola.
Dr. Thomas Shockley, the chief health equity officer for TriHealth in Cincinnati, emphasizes that these new vaccines are designed to be safer with a lower risk of side effects, just like the initial vaccines.
Despite scepticism from some quarters, such as Florida’s surgeon general, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, who questions its safety, experts like Dr. Stephen Blatt from TriHealth argue that modifying vaccines to address new variants doesn’t compromise safety. Blatt highlights that the limited studies conducted have shown that the antibodies developed through these boosters are effective against the circulating variants.
While older individuals and those with compromised immunity face a higher risk of serious complications from COVID-19, widespread vaccination with the booster can offer protection to these vulnerable groups. Many individuals, including Renee Mahaffey Harris, president and CEO of the Center for Closing the Health Gap, plan to get the booster to increase their odds of protection and help safeguard the community.
The CDC hopes for better booster uptake compared to the last one, which saw less than one in five people choosing to get it. The new booster shots are expected to be available in pharmacies within the next few weeks and should be widely accessible by mid-October. Given the ongoing spread of the virus, getting the vaccine as soon as possible is recommended, as it takes approximately two weeks to develop better immunity.
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