As fall season begins, the emphasis on vaccination against COVID remains strong. Updated versions of the vaccine now aim at the current variants and are recommended for all above 6 months.
Andy Pekosz, PhD, an expert in Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, provides insights on the updated vaccine, highlighting its differences, the target group, and its compatibility with other vaccinations.
Recent Approvals: The mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have received FDA approval and CDC recommendation as of September 14, 2023. Novavax's vaccine is awaiting FDA review.
What's New? The latest vaccine targets the variant XBB.1.5, differing from the previous bivalent vaccine.
Eligibility & Timing: The updated vaccine is advised for everyone above 5 years. Given the approaching holidays and potential indoor gatherings, mid-October is the suggested deadline for receiving the vaccine.
Vaccine vs. Variants: Research indicates the updated vaccine's effectiveness against dominant U.S. variants like EG.5, FL.1.5.1, and others in the XBB family.
About BA.2.86 Variant: Preliminary data indicates that the updated vaccine recognizes the BA.2.86 variant.
Not Just a "Booster": The term "booster" has been replaced by "updated COVID vaccine", symbolizing a shift in approach to treating COVID akin to flu, requiring annual shots.
Post-Infection Vaccination: Even after recovering from COVID, updating your vaccine is crucial. A 3 to 6-month gap post-recovery before taking the vaccine is suggested.
After Previous Vaccines: After receiving any prior COVID-19 vaccine, a waiting period of at least two months is recommended before taking the updated vaccine.
Vaccine Costs: Most Americans can get the updated COVID vaccine free of charge through various insurance and assistance programs.
Side Effects: Side effects remain consistent with previous vaccines.
For First-Timers: If you haven't been vaccinated yet, it's a good time to start with the updated version.
Vaccine-Induced Immunity: This form of immunity is preferable as it ensures robust protection without undergoing the illness itself.
Coinciding with Flu Shot: Both flu and COVID vaccines can be taken simultaneously, ensuring comprehensive protection.
Coinciding with RSV Vaccine: While formal studies are lacking, there doesn't appear to be any issue with taking the RSV and COVID vaccines together. The RSV vaccine is primarily recommended for those over 60.
In conclusion, the updated vaccine offers protection tailored to the current situation and should be considered an essential step in continuing the fight against COVID.