WASHINGTON, DC – September 1, 2022 – The Food & Drug Administration approved emergency authorization for a new COVID booster on August 31st and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention ratified it the following day. The vaccine is bivalent, which means that it targets 2 versions of the COVID virus, the original virus and the new dominant BA.4 and BA.5 variants. The BA.5 strain accounts for almost 90% of all COVID infections in the U.S. The remainder of U.S. infections are due to the BA.4 strain. Eligible persons 12 years old and up can have the Pfizer-BioNTech booster while eligible people 18 years and up can have the new Moderna vaccine. They must be at least 2 months after any prior COVID-19 shots and have had the full primary vaccination series. The CDC advises that people who recently had COVID consider delaying their boosters until 3 months after their symptoms started or after their positive COVID test if they were asymptomatic.
Targeting the most recent virus strains has been the approach taken by the annual flu shot. Flu shots are updated every year. This approach has been proven effective at reducing illness. It is hope that the new COVID-19 booster will boost the level of antibodies to protective levels while reducing the risk of new infections and long COVID. The original boosters have been shown to continue to reduce the risk of severe illness and death due to infections from the newer strains. They were more effective against preventing infections before the virus began to form newer strains and then has lost some of its effectiveness. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said via a statement on August 30th, “the updated Covid-19 boosters are formulated to better protect against the most recently circulating Covid-19 variant. They can help restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination and were designed to provide broader protection against newer variants.” It takes between 1 to 2 weeks after you get the booster for the antibodies to rise significantly.
This new booster will replace the previous booster shot that had targeted only the original version of the virus. However, the original vaccine will still be used for persons who have not received the full primary vaccination series.
It is very important that permission for emergency authorization be obtained before a presumed fall surge of cases as seen with the flu and frequently with many other viral respiratory diseases. The drug companies took less than 3 months to modify the original vaccine to be more specific for the newer viral strains. This is an advantage of vaccines produced from mRNA technology. They can be modified over a shorter time period than vaccines derived from the older technology.
All previous COVID vaccines have been underwritten by the federal government so they are free to everyone that wanted one. The government is soon to run out of money to cover the cost of the vaccination because there has been no extension authorized by Congress. It is likely that starting in January 2023, people will have to pay for the vaccines; therefore, introducing a potential development of disparities in treatment based on the ability to pay. Dr Richard Besser, president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, remarks ”one’s ability to pay for a vaccine should not determine whether or not someone receives a vaccine.”
The booster shots will be available after Labor Day. The federal government has purchased 171 million doses. Pharmacies, community health centers and rural health clinics have been allowed to pre-order the shots from the federal government. Many have begun to schedule appointments for booster administration in addition to the primary vaccination series.
Listen to the full report below:
Contact: Dick Needleman, Health reporter, 103.3 AshevilleFM, firstname.lastname@example.org