WASHINGTON (AP) – Updated COVID-19 vaccines are coming soon, just in time to pair them with flu shots. And this fall, the ﬁrst vaccines for another scary virus called RSV are rolling out to older adults and pregnant women.
Doctors hope enough people get vaccinated to help avert another “tripledemic” like last year when hospitals were overwhelmed with an early flu season, an onslaught of RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, and yet another winter coronavirus surge.
COVID-19 hospitalizations have been steadily increasing since late summer, although not nearly as much as this time last year, and RSV already is on the rise in parts of the Southeast.
Approval of updated COVID-19 shots is expected within days. They are among the tools the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says will help put the U.S. in “our strongest position yet” to avoid another chaotic respiratory season.
“There will be a lot of virus this winter. That’s why we want to get ahead of it, ” CDC chief Dr. Mandy Cohen said.
Here is what you need to know about fall vaccinations:
WHY MORE COVID-19 SHOTS?
The ever-evolving coronavirus isn’t going away. Similar to how flu shots are- updated each year, the Food and Drug Administration gave COVID-19 vaccine makers a new recipe for this fall.
The updated shots have a single target, an omicron descendant named XBB.1.5. It’s a big change. The COVID-19 vaccines offered since last year are combination shots targeting the original coronavirus strain and a much earlier omicron version, making them very outdated.
Pﬁzer, Moderna and Novavax all have brewed new supplies.
The FDA will soon decide if each company has met safety, effectiveness and quality standards. Then the CDC must sign off before vaccinations begin. A CDC advisory panel is set to meet Tuesday to make recommendations on how best to use the latest shots.
Earlier this month, European regulators authorized Pﬁzer’s updated vaccine for this fall, for adults and children as young as 6 months.
WILL THEY BE EFFECTIVE ENOUGH?
Health ofﬁcials are optimistic, barring a new mutant.
As expected, XBB.1.5 has faded away in the months it took to tweak the vaccine. Today, there is a soup of different coronavirus variants causing illness and the most common ones are fairly close relatives. Recent lab testing from vaccine makers and other research groups suggest the updated shots will offer crossover protection.