The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed in a press briefing on Thursday that updated Covid vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax are expected to be available to the public in mid-September. This announcement marks the most definitive timeline provided thus far. While federal officials have previously stated that the new shots could arrive around September, CDC Director Mandy Cohen had previously mentioned a later timeline, citing the “early October time frame” in an interview with NPR. However, this recent update suggests that the vaccines will potentially be accessible to the public sooner than anticipated.
Although the updated vaccines are nearing distribution, both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC still need to grant their approvals. Additionally, the CDC will establish eligibility guidelines for the administration of these doses. To determine these guidelines, an independent panel of advisors will convene on September 12th to vote on a recommendation. Once these approvals and guidelines are in place, federal agencies will encourage Americans to receive the updated Covid shot, along with other key vaccines, as the fall approaches. This proactive measure aims to counter the increased transmission of respiratory viruses during this time of the year. Critical vaccinations include the annual flu shot and recently approved jabs that provide protection against respiratory syncytial virus for older adults and infants.
The CDC acknowledges that vaccination remains a crucial strategy in the fight against Covid-19. Immunity wanes over time, and the virus continues to evolve, making regular vaccination essential for maintaining protection. The arrival of updated vaccines offers reassurance to the American public amid a slight uptick in Covid cases and hospitalizations. However, the CDC official emphasized that these metrics are still below last year’s summer peak, which significantly strained hospitals. Therefore, the availability of updated vaccines serves as a preventative measure, ensuring that the healthcare system is better equipped to handle any potential surge in cases.
Targeting Omicron Subvariant XBB.1.5
Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax have tailored their updated vaccines to target the omicron subvariant XBB.1.5. While this subvariant’s prevalence is decreasing nationwide, the effectiveness of the new shots against EG.5, a newer strain of the virus, remains promising. Initial trial data from all three drug manufacturers indicates that the neutralization against EG.5 is robust, providing a degree of confidence in the vaccines’ ability to combat this strain.
Uncertainty Surrounding BA.2.86
Although the updated vaccines show promising results against EG.5, their efficacy against another new omicron strain, BA.2.86, remains uncertain. BA.2.86 has emerged in a small number of cases in the United States, the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Israel. At this stage, it is too early to obtain exact data on the vaccines’ effectiveness against this particular strain. However, more information regarding their ability to protect against BA.2.86 is expected in the coming weeks. Despite this uncertainty, officials believe that the new vaccines will likely still offer protection against severe outcomes resulting from contracting the Covid virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the CDC have been closely monitoring BA.2.86 due to its unique genetic profile featuring 36 mutations distinct from XBB.1.5. However, there is currently no evidence to suggest that BA.2.86 spreads more rapidly or causes more severe infections than previous versions of the virus. Continued surveillance and research will shed more light on this omicron strain’s characteristics and potential implications.
The arrival of updated Covid vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax in mid-September offers hope and reassurance to the American public. While federal approvals and eligibility guidelines are still pending, the CDC emphasizes the importance of vaccination as a critical strategy in the ongoing battle against Covid-19. Although the updated vaccines show promising results against the EG.5 strain, their efficacy against the BA.2.86 strain remains uncertain. Nevertheless, public health officials remain vigilant in tracking these variations and their potential impact. Overall, the availability of updated vaccines represents a crucial step in maintaining immunity, mitigating severe outcomes, and safeguarding against future surges of the virus.