Is it time for another Covid-19 booster vaccine? Many people are asking this question to their doctors given what happened last week – the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has amended its authorization to allow a second bivalent booster for certain individuals most vulnerable to severe effects from Covid. -19. Subsequently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the FDA update and added additional clinical considerations to guide healthcare professionals and patients.
I have a lot of questions. Who is eligible for second bivalent boosters? Is the composition of the booster the same as before? If someone got a booster now, can they get another booster in the fall? What if someone is not in any of these high-risk groups but lives with a high-risk family member? And how has the guidance changed for people who have not yet received their first booster and those who remain unvaccinated?
To find answers to some questions, I contacted CNN Medical Analyst, Dr. Jones. Lena Ven. Emergency Physician and Professor of Health Policy and Management at the Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University. She previously served as Baltimore’s Health Commissioner.
CNN: Can you give us a major update – who is now eligible for a second? divalent booster?
Dr. Leana Wen: There are two groups that can now receive a second bivalent booster.
First, these are people aged 65 and over. From the beginning of the pandemic, we have known that the elderly are among those most exposed to the severe effects of Covid-19. These people may receive a second bivalent booster if at least 4 months have passed since their first bivalent injection.
Secondly, these are people with a weakened immune system. New CDC guidance says that anyone 6 years of age or older with moderate or severe immunodeficiency can receive a second bivalent revaccination if at least two months have passed since the first. They should also consult with their physicians; Depending on their specific medical circumstances, they may receive a bivalent booster dose every two months.
CNN: Is the composition of the booster the same as before?
To whom: The bivalent booster I’m talking about is an updated booster that first became available in the fall of 2022 and targets both the original coronavirus strain and the BA.4/BA.5 omicron sub-variants. Studies have shown that this booster continues to be effective against widely circulating strains when it comes to important indicators of reducing severe disease. Those who were recently eligible for a second try will receive this bivalent booster again. It is not possible to select the original mono shot, and no other type of booster is available.
CNN: If someone gets a booster now, can they get another booster in the fall?
To whom: Perhaps an updated version of the booster will be released in the fall that will more specifically target the dominant variants in circulation. Individuals who have recently become eligible for a second bivalent booster dose are vulnerable individuals who will almost certainly be the same first groups eligible for another Covid-19 vaccine in the fall. All of this is to say that people should not be discouraged from revaccinating now, thinking that this will prevent them from using another vaccine in the future.
CNN: What if someone is not in any of these high-risk groups but lives with a high-risk family member?
To whom: This man himself would not have the right. There are vaccines for Covid-19 very well reduces the risk of hospitalization and death for a person who has been vaccinated. For a short time, it reduces the risk of infection, but this effect is muted and temporary. Federal health officials did not allow family members or caregivers of high-risk individuals to receive a second bivalent booster, and I think this is the right decision based on scientific evidence.
There are other ways to reduce the risk of contracting Covid-19 and passing it on to someone close to you. These methods include regular testing, especially when symptoms are present or after contact with an infected person, and wearing a high-quality mask in crowded areas.
CNN: How has the guidance changed for people who haven’t had their first booster yet, and for those who remain unvaccinated?
To whom: it’s actually quite a lot has changed. The CDC aims to simplify vaccine recommendations and has made several important changes.
To begin with, the bivalent vaccine will be the only vaccine available. The original monovalent vaccine will no longer be used, even in people who have not yet been vaccinated. This will help simplify the administration of vaccines, as pharmacies no longer need to keep both types of vaccines in stock.
In addition, unvaccinated people aged 6 years and older will be considered vaccinated if they have received only one dose of a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna bivalent booster dose. The thought here is that most unvaccinated people in this age group have already contracted Covid-19, and one dose of a refreshed booster dose is enough to provide additional protection.
People who have previously received a coronavirus vaccine will still need at least one dose of a bivalent booster dose to be considered up-to-date. That is, even if a person received three or more doses of the original monovalent vaccines, they are still not considered up-to-date unless they received at least one bivalent dose. This is an important point as CDC data show that less than one in five people eligible for the first bivalent dose have received it; This means that, according to their new definition, less than one in five Americans previously considered fully vaccinated are actually up to date with their Covid-19 vaccines.
CNN: What’s the bottom line – should people who are newly eligible for boosters do so right away?
To whom: I think people who have recently qualified for the program should talk to their doctors about what is right for them. The CDC has issued a so-called permissive recommendation, which means people can opt for an extra booster dose if they so choose. A generally healthy 65-year-old man who has recently recovered from Covid-19 may wait until autumn to receive another booster. But an 89-year-old man with kidney disease, a history of stroke, and a history of heart attacks who is not eligible to take Paxlovid antiviral treatment may need every possible level of protection, including an additional booster dose.
In my opinion, this lenient approach to supplemental boosters is in line with the situation we are in at this stage of the Covid-19 pandemic: people should choose the level of protection that is best for them based on their individual medical circumstances.