(WXYZ) — New COVID-19 boosters have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices must first weigh in before they can be administered. The committee has gathered Thursday and is expected to endorse the shots.
The older booster shots will be replaced with the reformulated vaccines, except for children between the ages of 5 and 11. That age group will still get the current booster that’s available now. And that’s because Pfizer’s new bivalent booster is only FDA approved for people ages 12 and up. Moderna’s new bivalent booster is FDA approved for 18 and up.
As for who can get the updated boosters, the FDA authorized the new shots for people who are fully vaccinated as well as anyone whose had one or two shots of the current boosters.
Also, people need to know that there is a waiting period. You must wait at least two months after you’ve completed your primary vaccination or after getting a booster shot before getting the updated bivalent booster dose.
Having said all that, the CDC will have final say on who should get the shots and when people can get them.
Both new shots target the two main strains that are currently circulating in the U.S.: Omicron’s BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. If they’re approved, people can start getting the shots right away, although it may take a week or two before they become widely available.
A lot of my patients have been asking how we know the updated vaccines work and are safe with little human data. There’s a lot of focus on the vaccines being tested in mice. Now, the FDA allowed Pfizer and Moderna to submit animal data so that the shots could be approved quicker.
We’re heading into fall when respiratory viruses spread more easily, and that’s because people spend more time together indoors. So, we’re expecting COVID-19 cases to increase.
Now I get that it’s worrying for some folks that there is not much data yet from human studies for these bivalent shots. But the FDA also looked at other evidence to base their decision on. Earlier this year, both Pfizer and Moderna presented data regarding another bivalent vaccine that targeted BA.1. This data showed the vaccines were well-tolerated and boosted antibody responses.
Plus, we need to remember that the new shots still use the same mRNA technology that was originally tested in humans in clinical trials. Changes do not affect safety. On top of that, the new shots contain lower doses of mRNA, which is why they are only being used as boosters and are not part of the primary series.
The FDA and the CDC will ensure that the new boosters meet their rigorous safety standards. It’s expected that the updated shots will continue to offer strong protection against severe illness and death. Hopefully, they’ll also provide protection against breakthrough infections and reinfections as well.
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