The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that Americans aged six months or older receive the new version of the Covid-19 vaccines that are specially designed to target the XBB lineage, the newest strains of the virus—the latest regulatory step toward getting updated shots in arms.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, an arm of the CDC composed of medical experts, voted 13-1 to recommend the vaccines, which are produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, for people six months or older during its meeting Tuesday.
The recommendation then got the final signoff needed from CDC Director Mandy Cohen to begin administering the shots.
The CDC also recommended that providers stop administering the bivalent Covid-19 vaccine, which was the most recent iteration of the vaccine prior to this new one and was approved last year to target earlier coronavirus strains.
The Food and Drug Administration similarly gave its approval to the vaccines on Monday.
These vaccines are designed to protect against the XBB lineage of coronavirus, a group of new variants that emerged in late 2022 and have become the most common type of coronavirus circulating in the United States. They’re the latest in a number of iterations drugmakers have released since the original Covid-19 vaccines were administered in late 2020. In fall 2021, the first booster shots were released in an effort to replenish waning immunity months after people received their initial doses. Subsequently, a new variant of the virus called Omicron, which was more resistant to the original vaccines, launched a vicious new wave of the pandemic, leading drugmakers to release a modified “bivalent” booster shot in fall 2022. That formulation of the vaccine was designed to protect against both the original virus as well as Omicron. This new booster is attempting to do what that bivalent booster did with Omicron, but with the new XBB strains.
What To Watch For
When shots will go into arms. The FDA and CDC approval cleared the way for these vaccines to begin being administered. Vaccines are expected to be delivered to pharmacies and providers soon.
Regulators hope this new vaccine will help prevent a dangerous wave of Covid-19 this fall. In the week ending September 2, the most recent data available, hospital admissions for Covid-19 increased 8.7% over the previous week, according to the CDC. That’s 18,871 hospital admissions during that week. The week prior, ending August 27, saw 17,418 hospital admissions and a 15.7% increase. The numbers are still a far cry from the peak in January 2022, when there were around 150,000 hospitalizations a week. However, doctors fear they signal a new wave could be coming.
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UPDATE (9/12/2023): This story was updated after the CDC director gave her final approval.