(CTN News) – We have to face the reality that COVID is a part of our lives as we bid farewell to beach days and late sunsets for cooler weather and school or work.
The U.S. has already seen a summer bump in cases, with hospitalizations and waste levels creeping back up. There are so many people wondering when they’ll be able to get another COVID shot.
In accordance with the FDA, the updated fall COVID booster should be available by mid-September once it’s approved. CDC will then recommend which groups can and should get vaccinated.
In June, an FDA advisory committee picked which strains of the COVID-causing virus SARS-CoV-2 to include in the fall booster. For much of this year, XBB.1.5 has been the dominant variant in the U.S. However, a new variant called BA.2.86 has more than 35 mutations, compared with XBB.1.5. People in the U.S., Denmark, Israel, and elsewhere have been diagnosed with BA.2.86.
The new variant is currently only making up a tiny fraction of cases, though SARS-CoV-2 is being sequenced and tracked less closely.
BA.2.86 may be better at evading the immune system or causing more severe disease, but FDA scientists say prior immunity and the COVID booster should still help.
Experts that Scientific American spoke with agree that people 65 and older, chronically ill, immunocompromised, or pregnant would benefit most from the fall COVID booster.
“I worry about people at high risk for serious illness, who could benefit most from boosters.
People 65 and older and people with underlying health issues,” says Jennifer Nuzzo, professor of epidemiology and director of the Pandemic Center at Brown University.
The director of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Vaccine Education Center, Dr. Paul Offit, agrees. He is a member of the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee. “Prevention of all illnesses is not the goal. We want to keep people out of hospitals.”
In addition, Stanley Perlman, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, says that infants aged six months or older who have not been vaccinated are at a greater risk of contracting COVID and should receive the primary series of the vaccine.
It remains to be seen whether the CDC will recommend an additional booster vaccination for healthy people under 65 who have already been vaccinated or infected.
“For everyone else, it’s a little more complicated and less clear what the benefits are,” Nuzzo says. A short-term boost in antibody levels may be helpful, according to some research.
Previously, I’ve gotten a booster dose just to give myself extra protection during times when I’m more likely to have exposures, such as holiday travel, gatherings with people I don’t normally spend time with, etc. In addition, she recommends waiting to see what the CDC recommends.