UPDATED with CDC recommendation: On the heels of the FDA approving the latest fall Covid vaccine yesterday, a Centers For Disease Control and Prevention panel today signed off on the shots.
“CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get an updated COVID-19 vaccine to protect against the potentially serious outcomes of COVID-19 illness this fall and winter,” reads an official statement. “Updated COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna will be available later this week.”
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PREVIOUSLY: The FDA today approved the new, fall Covid vaccine targeting omicron descendant XBB.1.5, which in over the summer was the most prevalent strain in the U.S. Last year’s vaccines targeted the original strain and an earlier omicron version. According to the AP, the new shots could be available as soon as this week.
As Covid numbers inch up across the country, U.S. officials are racing to get the new vaccine approved and available. The final step would be approval by the CDC, which is set to issue recommendations tomorrow.
One question that has arisen during the process is whether the new shots will protect against the strains that have eclipsed XBB.1.5 in the past month or so. EG.5 is chief among them, which CDC models estimate made up roughly 21% of all cases nationwide on September 2, the most recent week for which there is forecasting. As of that date, XBB.1.5 had quickly shrunk to 3% of all variants. In the Western region comprised of California, Nevada and Arizona, XBB.1.5 made up more than 28% of all cases. See national chart below.
The good news is, per AP, that testing suggests the updated vaccine will offer protection good protection against EG.5, since it is genetically similar to a variant used to develop the vaccine.
“It doesn’t look like something that’s vastly different from what’s already been circulating in the U.S. for the past three to four months,” Andrew Pekosz, a professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health told the New York Times last week.
Of more concern is a variant known as BA.2.86. While only a handful of cases have been identified in the U.S., scientists worry about the possibility of rapid spread because it is as heavily mutated from recent versions of the virus as the original Omicron was from the original Covid strain. While BA.2.86 is thought to be more immune evasive, it is not thought to be more communicable. The impacts of that across the country are unclear.
Officials are hoping Americans will get the new Covid vaccine in concert with the yearly fall Flu and RSV vaccines to prevent co-outbreaks on infection that could strain local medical systems. RSV, a respiratory virus, is already on the rise in the Southeastern U.S. Per the CDC, “Historically, such regional increases have predicted the beginning of RSV season nationally, with increased RSV activity spreading north and west over the following 2–3 months. RSV can cause severe disease in infants, young children, and older adults.”
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