SEPTEMBER 13, 2023

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday recommended that everyone over 6 months old receive the updated COVID-19 shots approved by the Food and Drug Administration on Monday.

Mandy Cohen, MD, director of the CDC, gave final approval Tuesday evening. The agency’s move followed a vote by the CDC’s advisory committee earlier in the day in favor of the recommendation. The new vaccines could be available within the next 48 hours in some areas of the country, the CDC reported.

The move comes a day after the US Food and Drug Administration gave approval for updated COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. The new shots are more in line with the variant of the virus currently circulating. A new vaccination campaign is expected to start in the coming days. 

The advisory panel said it supports a universal vaccine recommendation for all age groups at this time. Earlier Tuesday, it wasn’t clear if it would recommend that specific populations receive the shots compared to others, such as older adults and those who are immunocompromised. 

Current variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus going around most commonly in the US are subvariants of what is called the XBB lineage. 

“I do think that a broad boosting strategy makes sense,” Caitlin Rivers, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, told Reuters.

The first COVID-19 vaccines ever released targeted the original strain of the virus. Then came bivalent boosters that targeted the original and Omicron strains. The new shots are monovalent vaccines that target the XBB.1.5 variant. 

“I do think that the XBB.1.5 vaccine will provide better cross protection against the current omicron variants than the bivalent booster,” Daniel Kuritzkes, MD chief of infectious diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, told Reuters.

Scientists are keeping tabs on subvariants circulating including EG.5, or Eris, and BA.2.86, or Pirola. Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Novavax say the updated shots are effective against the EG.5 variant. Modern and Pfizer’s shots had strong responses in testing against the BA.2.86 subvariant as well, Reuters reported. 

Novavax is still testing its vaccine against the BA.2.86 variant. That vaccine is still under review.

“There is an urgent need for alternatives to mRNA-based vaccines, including protein vaccines, and so in that regard, we will review such a submission expeditiously,” David Kaslow, MD, who heads up vaccine reviews for the FDA, said after being asked about that option. Novavax is a protein-based vaccine that doesn’t use mRNA like the current options.


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