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CDC recommends updated COVID-19 boosters ahead of possible fall surge

Move comes after FDA give emergency use authorization for bivalent vaccines.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have recommended using updated COVID-19 boosters to stem a projected fall surge of the disease.

CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) met Sept. 1 to consider using the bivalent vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna to fight the virus’ omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants. The vaccines aim “to restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination by targeting variants that are more transmissible and immune-evading,” the centers’ announcement said.

“The updated COVID-19 boosters are formulated to better protect against the most recently circulating COVID-19 variant,” CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, said in a news release. “They can help restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination and were designed to provide broader protection against newer variants. This recommendation followed a comprehensive scientific evaluation and robust scientific discussion. If you are eligible, there is no bad time to get your COVID-19 booster and I strongly encourage you to receive it.”

The Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent boosters may be used for people aged 12 years and older. The Moderna bivalent boosters are recommended for people aged 18 years and older.

CDC announced in the coming weeks the health experts expect to recommend updated COVID-19 boosters for other pediatric groups, per the discussion and evaluation of the data by ACIP on Sept. 1, 2022.

“When data are available and FDA authorizes these other types of COVID-19 boosters, CDC will quickly move to help make them available in the United States,” the centers’ announcement said.

The move came a day after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced emergency use authorizations for the vaccines. FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, MD, encouraged anyone who qualifies to get a booster for the fall season, at least two months after finishing their initial vaccine cycle or after one or two previous boosters.

From December 2020 to December 2021, vaccinations are estimated to have prevented 13.7 million to 15.9 million deaths across 185 countries, an estimated 63% reduction in total COVID-19 deaths globally, according to figures presented in the ACIP meeting.

The American Medical Association (AMA) also has published new billing codes for the bivalent vaccines.

AMA Board Chair Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, MD, issued a statement noting the omicron variant is “highly transmissible,” but that the updated bivalent booster dose could prevent more than 100,000 hospitalizations, compared to a later rollout of the shots.

“We continue to strongly urge everyone to stay up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines, including recommended booster doses, to protect themselves and their loved ones from severe complications, hospitalization, and death,” Fryhofer said in the statement. “Anyone with questions about the vaccines should speak with their physician and review trusted resources, including getvaccineanswers.org.”

The website is maintained by the COVID Collaborative, a group of businesses and organizations including CDC, AMA, and the Ad Council.

This article was published by our sister publication Medical Economics.