Updated Sep 1, 2022 - Health

CDC recommends updated COVID-19 boosters

Photo: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention late Thursday recommended reformulated Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 boosters that target the Omicron strain for people age 12 and up.

Why it matters: The recommendation came after an outside panel of vaccine advisors earlier Thursday endorsed the boosters in a 13-1 vote and marked the last regulatory hurdle before the updated shots can go into Americans’ arms.

Driving the news: The CDC recommended the new Pfizer-BioNTech booster for individuals 12 years and the Moderna vaccine for individuals 18 and up.

  • The agency said it expects to recommend updated COVID-19 boosters for younger age groups in the coming weeks, pending FDA authorization.
  • Individuals should be at least two months out from getting their primary COVID series and their booster dose.

Between the lines: During the advisory panel's discussion, members expressed concern about a lack of real-world data on the reformulated shots while saying they wanted to get the vaccines out sooner rather than later.

  • They also raised concerns that the original versions of the booster might get mixed up with the reformulated booster because of similarities in the cap design.

What we know: The vaccines are considered safe, and COVID-19 vaccines and boosters provide high levels of protection against severe disease and the reformulated vaccines will expand individuals' immune response, CDC officials said during the meeting.

  • "If you are eligible, there is no bad time to get your COVID-19 booster," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement after the final recommendation.

What we don't know: We don't know the incremental increase in vaccine effectiveness or the duration of protection, officials said.

  • We also don't know the rate of myocarditis, although officials said it's unlikely the newly retooled vaccines would increase rates of the heart condition.

Zoom out: More than 12.6 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been given worldwide since late 2020, per a Bloomberg tracker, including 609 million in the U.S.

  • The U.S. government has already purchased 171 million of the Omicron-specific booster shots for this fall and beyond.
  • During the ACIP meeting, CDC officials said they estimated more than 100,000 hospitalizations and more than 1 million hospitalizations could be averted with a fall vaccination campaign.
  • They also estimate nearly 25 million cases of COVID could be prevented.
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