By James Sterling, Weekly Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the latest COVID-19 booster shots, signaling a critical move as the nation gears up for the approaching cold and flu season.
A pivotal advisory panel at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is set to cast their votes on recommendations Tuesday, marking the final procedural step before these vital shots become accessible to the public.
Peter Marks, the director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, underscored the importance of vaccination, stating, "Vaccination remains critical to public health and continued protection against serious consequences of COVID-19, including hospitalization and death."
Marks further emphasized the safety and efficacy of these updated vaccines, saying, "The public can be assured that these updated vaccines have met the agency’s rigorous scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality. We very much encourage those who are eligible to consider getting vaccinated."
The newly authorized COVID-19 booster shots, manufactured by Moderna and Pfizer, extend eligibility to individuals aged five and above, provided that at least two months have elapsed since their last vaccine dose.
The updated vaccine offers one or two doses for vaccinated children between six months and four years old, while unvaccinated children in the same age group are eligible for three doses of the updated Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or two doses of the updated Moderna shot.
The FDA highlighted the anticipated effectiveness of these updated vaccines against the current circulating variants, with plans for annual updates akin to the seasonal influenza vaccine unless a more virulent variant emerges.
While recent data from the CDC show an uptick in hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID-19, health officials are cautious but not alarmed. Hospitalizations have surged by nearly 16%, with deaths increasing by almost 11%.
Despite these trends, the percentage of Americans receiving COVID-19 vaccinations has gradually declined since the initial rollout in late 2020. Over 81% of the country has received at least one dose of the original vaccine, but only 70% have completed the primary two-dose series. According to CDC data, just 17% of the U.S. population opted for the bivalent vaccine approved last year.
This development is a significant step forward in our ongoing battle against COVID-19, and it underscores the importance of vaccination efforts as we head into the colder months.