The Biden administration is considering a mid-September launch for the release of enhanced COVID-19 vaccines, as reported by officials from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“On a call with journalists, an official emphasized that vaccination will remain crucial this year due to diminishing immunity and the evolving nature of the COVID-19 virus. Consequently, vaccines continue to be the most effective safeguard against hospitalization and mortality.”
This marks the first instance in which vaccines for all three primary autumn and winter viruses—namely, influenza, COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)—will be accessible.
This decision comes at a time when COVID-19 hospitalizations are on the rise, and the Biden administration aims to proactively address any potential autumn or winter surge through its vaccination initiative.
Moderna, Pfizer, and Novavax have formulated updated COVID-19 vaccines that are tailored to combat the XBB.1.5 variant. Recent CDC data indicate that this variant was accountable for less than 5% of recent infections. Currently, the dominant strain is EG.5, known as “eris,” which is responsible for over 20% of new cases.
Eris seems to possess greater transmissibility and a heightened ability to elude the immunity conferred by vaccines and prior infections, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). However, it hasn’t been linked to more severe illness.
Another variant of interest is BA.2.86, which rapidly garnered attention from both WHO and the CDC. While the CDC suggests that this highly mutated strain is probably not responsible for the recent uptick in hospitalizations in the United States, it is too early to ascertain its transmissibility or severity.
Authorities are optimistic that the updated vaccines will effectively counter these variants.
“FDA anticipates that once these updated vaccines are available, they will offer protection against the most severe consequences of the disease that may arise from the currently circulating variants,” stated one of the officials.
In mid-September, the CDC’s advisory panel of external vaccine experts will convene to recommend who should receive the updated COVID-19 vaccines. The officials acknowledged that some individuals, particularly older or immunocompromised Americans, might require more than one vaccination per year.