The next generation of COVID-19 booster vaccines, designed specifically to combat Omicron’s super-infectious family of sub-variants, could be released early next month.
The offer, long in the works, would mark an ambitious new phase in the nation’s vaccination campaign and, officials say, give residents another option to protect themselves before a possible resurgence of the coronavirus in the fall and winter. .
But who will be able to roll up their sleeves this time? And those who have already received a booster, or two, do they really need another? This is what we know.
When will the Omicron booster injection be available?
The new booster could be available sometime in September, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha told a recent forum. But the injections will first need to receive approval from the US Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In a sign that the agencies may be close to a presentation, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has scheduled a meeting for September 1-2. The committee typically meets to offer recommendations to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky before offering recommendations on who should be vaccinated.
“We haven’t seen anything official yet, but we’re planning that when it comes out we’ll tell all of our vaccine providers,” Los Angeles County health officer Dr. Muntu Davis said Thursday of the timing of the new reinforcements.
Who would be eligible to receive the vaccines?
Although the final call is still pending, the expectation is that the eligibility will be broad.
What is the benefit of getting the new booster?
Omicron’s latest dominant subvariant, BA.5, differs in several ways from the original strain against which the vaccines were designed, Jha said.
While the original vaccines still work relatively well at keeping people out of the intensive care unit and dying, he said, their effectiveness in preventing infections has waned over time due to the evolution of the Omicron strain.
BA.5, in particular, has been shown to not only be highly transmissible, but also capable of reinfecting those who recently outgrew a previous strain of the coronavirus.
The Omicron booster, Jha added, represents a potentially substantial improvement on the vaccine “in terms of its ability to prevent infection, to prevent transmission, certainly to prevent serious illness and death.”
dr Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert at UC San Francisco, said the Omicron booster will help prevent people’s lives from being affected by infection.
As of mid-July, unvaccinated Californians were seven times more likely to contract COVID-19, nearly 12 times more likely to be hospitalized from the disease, and 11 times more likely to die than their boosted-vaccinated counterparts, according to the latest data from the state Department of Public Health.
When should people get the new booster?
In general, many officials and experts recommend getting a booster as soon as you’re eligible, especially if you’re at higher risk for serious health consequences from COVID-19.
But others may decide to wait a bit until October or November, as the potency of the booster will likely wane over time, as has been the case with other vaccine doses.
Peak effectiveness is likely to be four to five months after injection, with peak effectiveness a month after injection, according to Chin-Hong.
In the first fall and winter wave of the pandemic, coronavirus cases in California began to rise in November and accelerated sharply in December. In last year’s fall and winter wave, cases began to rise in December.
Federal officials have said that people who received a conventional booster shot earlier this year, including a second booster, will be eligible for the Omicron booster.
Should I get a conventional booster now or wait for the Omicron one?
Given that Omicron’s reinforcements could be only a few weeks away, it depends.
existing CDC guide recommends that most adults and children over 5 years of age receive a booster at least five months after completing their primary vaccination series. (Immunocompromised persons should receive their booster at least three months after the primary vaccination series.)
It is recommended that adults over 50 years of age and immunocompromised persons receive a second booster at least four months after the first booster.
According to Chin-Hong, people over 65 who haven’t had a booster should get the conventional shot now.
Getting a conventional booster now would also make sense for people who, for example, have five months or more to go since their last COVID-19 inoculation, are eligible for a booster, and are about to enter a higher-risk situation. , like taking a trip abroad, he added.
“If you’re going to be wandering around places with a lot of exposure, like going to Europe, you might want to consider getting the fourth shot sooner. [rather] than later,” UC San Francisco epidemiologist Dr. George Rutherford said at a recent town hall on campus. But getting a conventional booster now may mean you’ll have to wait before you’re eligible for the Omicron booster, he said.
Other people who have already delayed a booster may reasonably decide to wait for the Omicron injection, he said.
What about children under 12?
Neither Pfizer nor Moderna has requested authorization to offer Omicron boosters to children under 12 years of age. That age group is already far behind others in terms of vaccination rates.
Doctors recommend vaccinating younger children, even with the conventional vaccine, given its effectiveness in protecting against hospitalization.
Vaccines are important, Chin-Hong said, because “you really can’t always predict who’s going to go to the hospital [from COVID-19] in the group of children under 12 years old, and you don’t know which variant comes. So I think it’s up to all of us to think seriously” about vaccinating children.
“We’ve gotten more and more data that it’s effective for the most severe outcomes,” he said.
Chin-Hong cited a recent study of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 during Omicron’s first surge in Singaporewhich found that completing the primary vaccination was 83% effective against hospitalization.
“We haven’t seen any serious side effects in children ages 5 to 11” as a result of vaccination, said Dr. Rea Boyd. wrote on a website of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “It’s safe and it works.”
Vaccines can also reduce the chances of long-term side effects after experiencing COVID-19, including long covid. Furthermore, a diagnosis of COVID-19 is associated with a higher subsequent probability of developing diabetes for both adults and children.
American children ages 5 to 11 became eligible for COVID-19 shots last November and for a booster in May.
Children under 5 years of age became eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in June. Pfizer said Tuesday that its vaccine was 73% effective in preventing COVID-19 among children ages 6 months to 4 years. Before the vaccines were available, pediatricians said the Omicron variant pushed hospitalization rates for children 4 and younger to the highest level in the entire pandemic.