CDC Approves COVID Boosters For All Adults

While there are growing concerns all over the world about a new Covid variant known as Omicron, health experts here are still urging calm and continuing to encourage as many Americans as possible to get vaccinated. Vaccines continue to prove effective against the virus, and there is no evidence yet that they will not protect us from the new strain of the virus. There is, though, some worry that the effectiveness of the vaccines begins to lessen over time, so older and immunocompromised patients have been eligible for booster doses for some time now. But now,  as health experts begin to focus on the severity of the new variant, the CDC has given the green light to administer Covid-19 vaccine boosters to all adults. 

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The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices changed their policy on Covid-19 vaccines, allowing all adults to get booster shots.

The Expansion

At the end of October, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to change their policy on Covid-19 vaccines, approving booster shots for everyone, and not just for people 50 and older, or those who are immunocompromised. Now, the only requirements to receive a booster are that individuals must be 18 or older, and must be at least six months past their last dose of a two-dose vaccine, or two months past a single-shot vaccine. 

CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., said of the decision,  “After critical scientific evaluation, today’s unanimous decision carefully considered the current state of the pandemic, the latest vaccine effectiveness data over time, and review of safety data from people who have already received a COVID-19 primary vaccine series and booster. Booster shots have demonstrated the ability to safely increase people’s protection against infection and severe outcomes and are an important public health tool to strengthen our defenses against the virus as we enter the winter holidays. Based on the compelling evidence, all adults over 18 should now have equitable access to a COVID-19 booster dose.”

Who Should Get A Third Dose?

Individuals are still considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but booster shots are recommended to increase protection, especially among people who are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe Covid. illustration of 3 vaccine shots and viruses above the shot

For most people, these boosters should be given 6 months after being fully vaccinated; those with moderately to severely compromised immune systems, or who are living in a long-term care setting, should receive a full dose of the mRNA Covid-19 vaccine at least 28 days after the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. It is recommended that the third dose be from the same manufacturer as the first two, although the CDC has approved the mixing and matching of boosters.

For individuals who received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine, boosters shots are recommended for those who are 18 and older, and were vaccinated two or more months ago. 

As of now, no one knows what is going on with the new Covid variant Omicron, and there have been no cases detected in the U.S. yet,  but the CDC and health experts are urging Americans to continue to get vaccinated to better protect themselves and others.

Could It Be? Another Covid Variant Spreading Through The U.S.?

Just when we thought we were getting Covid under control, yet another variant of the virus is getting attention as it spreads through multiple countries. Covid Delta variant AY.4.2, also known as “Delta Plus,” has been found throughout the United Kingdom, and has now been spotted in labs in at least 8 different states in the U.S. Health authorities are doing extensive research to find out just why this variant is spreading faster than other variants, as well as if the current vaccines are effective against this new strain.

The AY.4.2 Delta Variantblue virus cells of all different sizes with a delta symbol in the middle

The AY.4.2 variant is a sub-lineage of the variant AY.4, and was first detected at the end of September, though it appears it surfaced in the UK around June. The U.K. has recorded one of the highest numbers of new Covid cases in any country in the past 30 days, second to the U.S.; the U.S., though, has so far only recorded 11 cases of the new variant, in California, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Washington state (as well as the District of Columbia). So far, it appears that Delta Plus spreads faster than other variants, with some scientists estimating that AY.4.2 has a 10-15% transmission advantage over Delta. They have noted, though, that it does not appear to cause more severe illness. 

“We have teams that are constantly reviewing the genetic sequence data and looking for blips, an increase in a certain proportion or just something that’s completely new,” says Dr. Summer Galloway, executive secretary of the U.S. government’s SARS-CoV-2 Interagency Group. 

Will The Current Vaccine Suffice?

Health authorities believe that current vaccines do remain effective against the new Covid strain AY.4.2. It’s still too early to tell just how much of an impact this new variant will have on Americans, but health officials point out that it takes higher levels of population immunity from both vaccinations and past infections to slow down transmission, no matter which variant we are dealing with. 

“Right now, I think there’s not a lot that we know. But in terms of the risk that it poses to public health, the prevalence is very low in the U.S. and we don’t really anticipate that the substitutions [of AY.4.2] are going to have a significant impact on either the effectiveness of our vaccines or its susceptibility to monoclonal antibody treatments,” said Galloway.needle and vial with covid-19 vaccine on the labelProf. Gupta, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, which advises the U.K. government, suggests that Delta is more contagious than previous variants because it can infect vaccinated people, who then pass it to other people. He says that “The high speed of replication means that the vaccinated person gets an infection and can spread it. Therefore, masks are an essential component of mitigation.”

It is still too early to tell how much of an impact the new Covid variant will have on the country, but researchers are closely monitoring this development to make sure we do not have another wave/surge in cases. Health officials are also hopeful that more people will continue to get vaccinated, because, as they point out, the more people get the shot, the better the chances of minimizing the new variant’s effects.