The director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Rochelle Walensky, signed off on updated COVID-19 vaccine boosters from Pfizer and Moderna.
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 13 to 1 to recommend the updated COVID-19 booster vaccine.
“We anticipate there will be a tough winter season ahead, both with flu and with COVID-19, and I feel our job is to do our best to protect public health,” said Dr. Grace Lee, the committee’s chair.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the booster on Wednesday and the manufacturers quickly began shipping doses.
“The updated COVID-19 boosters are formulated to better protect against the most recently circulating COVID-19 variant,” said Walensky. “They can help restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination and were designed to provide broader protection against newer variants. This recommendation followed a comprehensive scientific evaluation and robust scientific discussion. If you are eligible, there is no bad time to get your COVID-19 booster and I strongly encourage you to receive it.”
These updated COVID-19 boosters will protect against COVID-19 and omicron variants like BA.4 and BA.5. Moderna’s updated vaccine is a 50-microgram dose authorized for individuals 18 and older. Pfizer’s updated vaccine is a 30-microgram dose authorized for individuals 12 and older.
“We’re still seeing just under 500 deaths per day, which is putting us at about four times the level of yearly deaths we’ll tolerate for influenza,” said E. John Wherry, an immunologist at the University of Pennsylvania. “That’s still an unacceptable level of death. I’m hopeful we’ll make a dent in that because of updated boosters.”
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said the new COVID-19 updated booster vaccine is matched to what is currently circulating.
“The hope here is that by increasing the amount of antibodies we have to that particular variant, we will restore the kind of protection that we had when we first saw these vaccines launched in the late part of 2020, early part of 2021 where we had very good protection against symptomatic disease,” said Dr. Marks.
The CDC said people can get the updated COVID-19 boosters as long as they have completed all primary doses. The new booster vaccine must be given at least two months after the last dose of any COVID-19 vaccine and up to three months after infection.
“If people take these boosters, they’ll be better off, almost no matter what their situation is,” said Shane Crotty, a virologist at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology. “If we can get as many people to take these boosters as possible, that will definitely reduce the number of cases this winter.”