The FDA has authorized a new COVID-19 vaccine that targets the newer variants of the virus, including the Omicron subvariant. This monovalent vaccine, produced by Pfizer and Moderna, aims to minimize health risks, hospitalizations, and deaths associated with these variants. While it is expected to provide some protection against related variants currently in circulation, the exact level of protection is still unknown.
Before the new vaccine can be administered, it needs to be approved by the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the CDC's new director, Mandy Cohen. As COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are on the rise again in the U.S., the need for an effective vaccine is urgent. Hospitalizations rose by 15.7% in the week ending August 26, and deaths increased by 10.5% through September 2.
The FDA has stated that the new vaccine should be available for anyone aged 5 and older, regardless of their previous vaccination status. Children between 6 months and 4 years old who have received at least one earlier COVID vaccine are eligible for one or two doses of the new vaccine, while those who have never received a COVID vaccine can receive three doses of the Pfizer vaccine or two doses of the Moderna formula. The FDA has expressed confidence in the safety and effectiveness of these updated vaccines.
Regarding safety concerns, Dr. Beverly Sha, a professor of medicine at RUSH University Medical College, Chicago, has stated that the safety data accumulated from previous vaccines indicates that these vaccines are very safe. The risk of acute myocarditis, a side effect that primarily affected young men, is also lower now as the dosing schedule has been adjusted.
However, the uptake of previous boosters fell short of expectations, with only 20% or less of the population receiving the vaccine since its approval in September 2022. The cost of the new boosters is also a factor to consider, as they are no longer free of charge. The manufacturers estimate that each dose will cost between $110 and $130. While there may be funding available for uninsured individuals, those with Medicaid, Medicare, or private insurance are expected to have coverage.
In conclusion, the authorization of the new COVID-19 vaccine targeting the newer variants provides hope in minimizing health risks and reducing the impact of the virus. However, there are still unknowns regarding the level of protection and the cost of the boosters. The decision to receive the vaccine ultimately depends on individual risk assessments and personal circumstances.