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.

FDA OKs Moderna and J&J Covid Vaccine Booster Shots, Allows ‘Mix and Match’

We all witnessed some extraordinary things in 2020: not just a once-in-a-hundred-year pandemic, but also vaccines that were developed and administered in record time. Lockdown started in early 2020, and by late 2020, vaccines had begun rolling out for certain members of the population; the Pfizer vaccine was fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in August 2021, with the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines remaining authorized for emergency use. Some people have even begun getting Pfizer booster shots, and now the FDA has given the okay for people to begin getting boosters of both the Moderna and J&J vaccines. The FDA has even approved “mix and match” vaccine boosters, meaning that, no matter what shot you originally got, you can choose to change it up and have a different vaccine booster – some experts are even saying it might be beneficial to do so. 

More Boosters

shots laying on top of each other in a pile
The FDA has now approved Moderna and J&J vaccine booster shots.

The FDA has authorized vaccine boosters in order to combat any waning effectiveness of the shots that people have already gotten. “Today’s actions demonstrate our commitment to public health in proactively fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic,” acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said in a statement.

“As the pandemic continues to impact the country, science has shown that vaccination continues to be the safest and most effective way to prevent COVID-19, including the most serious consequences of the disease, such as hospitalization and death,” she added.

The final ruling by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in which they endorsed all three of the vaccine booster shots, was given on Thursday, October 21st after they evaluated Moderna and J&J’s booster data. 

Mix & Matching

The CDC says that now certain Moderna and J&J recipients can qualify for boosters just like Pfizer recipients, and that Americans can “mix and match” vaccine boosters. In a study published by the National Institutes of Health, all the combinations of boosters were shown to increase antibody levels; the study also noted that Moderna and Pfizer boosters appeared to work the best. All of this means that if one brand of the vaccine gave someone side effects, they can now get another dose from a different brand. 

“Being able to interchange these vaccines is a good thing — it’s like what we do with flu vaccines,” FDA’s Dr. Peter Marks told reporters Wednesday evening. “Most people don’t know what brand of flu vaccine they received.”

older Caucasian woman with short hair and glasses smiling
The booster shots will be more readily available to older adults with health issues.

Who Is Eligible For Moderna Or J&J Booster Shots?

For now, the FDA has authorized a third Moderna shot for seniors and high risk people with health issues, which can be administered 6 months after their last shot. The Moderna booster will be half the dose that is used for the first 2 shots, because the lower-dose booster triggers fewer uncomfortable shot reactions such as fever and achiness; this strategy will also leave more vaccine available for the global supply. 

“Now we have twice as much vaccine to go around,” Dr. Robert Murphy, executive director of the Institute for Global Health at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a statement. “That’s a big thing. By recommending half a dose, you just doubled the amount of vaccine available. And theoretically there could be fewer side effects with a lower dose.”

For those who got J&J’s single-shot vaccine, the FDA has said all U.S. recipients, no matter their age, can get a second dose at least two months following their initial vaccination. This is because the J&J shot has shown lower levels of protection than the other 2-shot rival vaccines. 

The authorization of the Moderna and J&J boosters opens up booster doses to the more than 15 million people who have received the J&J shot, and the more than 69 million people who have been fully immunized with Moderna’s vaccine.

Will You Need Booster Shots? Moderna Tests Vaccine Longevity.

The Covid-19 vaccines have been available in the U.S. for around 9 months, and researchers are continuing to study their effectiveness, specifically questioning how long the protection they offer will actually last. And now, a recent analysis conducted by Moderna, who makes one of the two mRNA Covid-19 vaccines, has shown that the effectiveness of the vaccine decreases as time goes by. In fact, according to the study, people who got the shot last year are twice as likely to contract the virus as people who recently got the shot. Moderna is hoping that this new data will lead to approval of a third-dose booster shot for those who received the original two-shot dose.

The Study

illustration of a woman in a lab coat looking through a microscope

The trial conducted over the summer by Moderna, labeled the 3 COVE Study, compared participants who received the vaccine between July 1, 2021 and August 27, 2021 to participants who got it between July 2020 and October 2020. Analysis of the data revealed that people who had recently received the vaccine had a lower risk of breakthrough infection than people who had been vaccinated last year. Specifically, “88 breakthrough cases of COVID-19 out of 11,431 people vaccinated occurred in the more recently vaccinated group (49.0 cases per 1000 person-years) compared to 162 cases out of 14,746 participants in the group vaccinated last year (77.1 cases per 1000 person-years).”

The study found that people who were vaccinated last year had a 50% higher rate of symptomatic breakthrough cases during the months of July and August compared to those who had received the vaccination later. And of those who received the vaccine more recently, there were no hospitalizations or deaths, compared to the 3 Covid-19 related hospitalizations of the earlier group, which resulted in 2 deaths.

“There’s a large debate, we all know, about whether or not vaccine boosters are going to be necessary in the fall,” Moderna President Stephen Hoge said. “That debate, what makes it really hard is it’s not really about whether the vaccine worked last month. It’s really about whether it’s going to work this winter.”

Is There a Need For A Booster Shot?

When the study and its data was presented, Moderna CEO Staphane Bancel stated that it proves the need for a booster shot. person receiving a shot in their arm

“It is promising to see clinical and real-world evidence adding to the growing body of data on the effectiveness of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine,” Bancel said. “The increased risk of breakthrough infections in COVE study participants who were vaccinated last year compared to more recently illustrates the impact of waning immunity and supports the need for a booster to maintain high levels of protection.”

Currently, the White House’s plan is for people to get a third dose 8 months after their second shot of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. However, multiple scientists from the World Health Organization and 2 FDA officials claim it is “not appropriate” to widely distribute booster shots to the general public just yet.

Coronavirus Update

Ten months into the coronavirus pandemic and we are still in the thick of things, although there is now some light at the end of the tunnel. Many states, as well as other countries, are seeing a sharp rise in cases and hospitalizations, and the U.S. has now officially surpassed 300,000 deaths from the virus. This wave of the pandemic has led to some states enforcing tighter restrictions, such as mandating a 10-day quarantine for those who travel out of state and closing down indoor dining and gyms. Fortunately, though, less than a year after the pandemic began, there are now 2 vaccines authorized for emergency use, which will hopefully be distributed to the general public soon. 

Coronavirus Cases & Deaths Hit New Recordsvirus in the background with a blue arrow trending upwards

The US recorded 247,403 new coronavirus cases on December 16, a record for one day. On Thursday, December 17, The U.S. reported that 114,237 people were hospitalized, which is the highest number since the pandemic began. It is also the 6th consecutive day that the U.S. remained above 100,000 hospitalizations. The daily numbers of hospitalizations in the country for the last week were as follows:

  • Dec. 17: 114,237
  • Dec. 16: 113,090
  • Dec. 15: 112,814
  • Dec. 14: 110,549
  • Dec. 13: 109,298 

The nation averaged 2,569 deaths per day last week, which is the highest average we have seen to date. The total number of deaths reported on December 16 was 3,656, a one-day high. California shattered the record for highest number of COVID-19 deaths in a day in one state with 379 deaths.

COVID-19 Death Rate 3x That of the Flu

Research published last week suggested that the coronavirus causes more severe symptoms than does the flu. The study also shows that the rate of death is three times higher for COVID-19 than the death rate for hospitalized flu patients. 

“Our study is the largest to date to compare the two diseases and confirms that COVID-19 is far more serious than the flu,” said Catherine Quantin from the French research institute INSERM. “The finding that the COVID-19 death rate was three times higher than for seasonal influenza is particularly striking when reminded that the 2018/2019 flu season had been the worst in the past five years in France in terms of number of deaths.”

hands squeezing someone's arm while putting a shot in the arm
2 vaccines have been approved for emergency use. The first to get the Covid-19 vaccine are healthcare workers and nursing home residents.

Coronavirus Vaccines Rolling Out Across U.S.

The first doses of FDA-authorized Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to all 50 states, less than a year after the disease was first spotted in the U.S. This vaccine was the first to be authorized in the U.S. for emergency use, with healthcare workers and residents in long-term care facilities slated to be the first to get the shot. And, on Monday, December 14, the nation watched as the first doses were injected into healthcare workers. Each person who receives the vaccine will need 2 doses approximately 21 days apart.

Then, on Friday, December 18, a week after the Pfizer vaccine got the green light for distribution, the FDA granted emergency use authorization to the Moderna coronavirus vaccine. The difference between the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines is that Moderna’s does not need to be stored at extremely low temperatures. 

FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen M. Hahn released a statement saying, “With the availability of two vaccines now for the prevention of COVID-19, the FDA has taken another crucial step in the fight against this global pandemic that is causing vast numbers of hospitalizations and deaths in the United States each day.”

Having two vaccines soon to be available to the wider public is great news, but as Dr. Peter Marks, the chief vaccine regulator at the FDA’s Center for Biologics Research and Evaluation, told a news briefing.“Our work evaluating the vaccine does not end with the authorization. And we’ve made clear we expect vaccine manufacturers to continue to study their vaccines and to move toward licensure.” 

Between the two vaccines, we will have 40 million doses available for 20 million people by the end of December.  

FDA Investigates COVID-19 Vaccine For Allergens 

There have been some reported cases of allergic reactions in people who have received the Pfizer vaccine. Dr. Peter Marks, who heads the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, is investigating what compound may be responsible for these reactions. caucasian woman with brown hair and a mask on grabbing her chest

At least three cases of anaphylaxis — a severe allergic reaction — have been reported in the first week of the rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in the US, as well as two cases in Britain. The healthcare workers who experienced the reactions were quickly treated. Dr Marks said, “It is known that one of the components that is present in both of the vaccines, polyethylene glycol, can be associated uncommonly with allergic reactions.” 

All administration sites that provide the vaccine must keep treatments, such as epi-pens, on hand for any allergic reactions.

Trial Designs Underway To Assess If Vaccine Can Prevent Carrying Of COVID-19

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have both been proven to reduce the risk of the disease. Moderna has stated that data suggests their vaccine can prevent asymptomatic as well as symptomatic infection.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of National Institutes of Health said that a trial is underway assessing whether the coronavirus vaccines can prevent people from carrying and spreading the virus. “There is a trial getting designed right now about how we will assess whether the vaccines actually prevent people from having any virus in their airway, because you want to know that,” Collins told CNN.

black calculator on top of different amounts of money bills.
A second round of stimulus checks of $600 has been approved and set to be sent out as early as next week.

Second Round Of Stimulus Checks

Lawmakers have come to a finalization on the second round of stimulus checks. Individuals earning up to $75,000 and couples earning $150,000 in 2019 will receive a $600 check, half the value of the first round of checks issued under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Stability, or CARES, Act. Taxpayers will also receive an additional $600 for each child under age 17. If individuals make between $75,000 and $95,000 annually, then they may be getting a portion, but not the entire $600.

According to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, checks might be rolling out as soon as next week.