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New Covid Vaccine for All from September 2023 – An Update

Dr. Prakash V Kotecha MD, MSc

Dr. Prakash V Kotecha MD, MSc

Health Specialist, Asian Pacific Community in Action

Covid Pandemic came in 2020 in the USA, killed over 1.1 million people and effected over 108 million people on record. Besides these deaths and disease, it played havoc in the life of people, large number of people lost their jobs, businesses got closed and economy shattered. However, the country fought back. Despite some resistance, vaccines arrived in time, population got vaccinated to the extent of 81% as of today, some got primary vaccination, over 50% got a booster and 17% got the second booster as well. 

Recently we have observed that Covid cases started increasing and though it is under control, and we do not fear the massive pandemic again, it surely needs to be attended to. 

CDC and FDA’s New Recommendation:

“Vaccination remains critical to public health and continued protection against serious consequences of COVID-19, including hospitalization and death,” said Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “The public can be assured that these updated vaccines have met the agency’s rigorous scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality. We very much encourage those who are eligible to consider getting vaccinated.” Once FDA approves the safety and efficacy, it is CDC who then recommends who should get the vaccine. CDC has come out with their recommendation on 12th of September 2023. Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are approved for use, while Novavax is still under scrutiny and will be approved after it is completed. 

What is different about the updated COVID vaccine?

The updated COVID vaccine is based on a variant called XBB.1.5. It will be the only COVID vaccine that’s available this fall. With this updated COVID vaccine, we’re back to a monovalent vaccine, meaning there’s only one component—that XBB.1.5 variant—compared with the previous bivalent COVID vaccine. All other vaccines are replaced with updated vaccine. 

Who should get the vaccine and when?

One dose of the updated COVID vaccine is recommended for all individuals 5 years and older. People at higher risk of severe illness should get the updated COVID vaccine as soon as possible. According to updated CDC guidelines, for children ages six months to five years, vaccination is recommended, but the number of vaccinations are based on which vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) they receive, as well as their age. 

Is the new vaccine considered a “booster”?

The FDA has shifted from calling this a booster to calling it an updated COVID vaccine. The change in wording reflects that FDA begun treating COVID like we treat influenza, with annual vaccination. The way we get our “annual flu shot” not a “flu booster.” Calling it an updated 

COVID vaccine also reflects that we’re not just boosting existing immunity from previous vaccination; rather, the vaccine builds a new immune response to variants that are currently circulating. Some people may still call it a booster, but it’s all the same injection.

If I had COVID recently, when should I get the updated vaccine?

According to the CDC, waiting for three months is advisable, since your symptoms began or, for asymptomatic cases, since you first tested positive. However, it is important to take updated vaccine. 

Is the vaccine free?

The updated COVID vaccine is free for most Americans through private health insurance and Medicare. Individuals who are uninsured and underinsured can receive free COVID vaccines at local health centers, pharmacies, and health care providers, through the Bridge Access Program. Vaccines through this program will not be available immediately; people without insurance will need to wait a few weeks after the vaccine is rolled out to get a free or reduced cost COVID vaccine.

If I haven’t gotten any COVID vaccines yet, can I start with this one?

If you’ve never been vaccinated against COVID, you can start with this vaccine. People 6 years of age and older are considered up to date on COVID vaccination once they receive one dose of the updated vaccine.

Can I get the flu shot and the COVID vaccine at the same time?

Yes. There are no downsides to getting both at the same time.

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