The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has approved the latest booster for COVID-19 as cases continue to rise amid the spread of the virus’s omicron variants.
A CDC panel approved the updated vaccine 13-1 on Tuesday, universally recommending that everyone 6 months and older receive the shot, which more closely matches the currently circulating variants. Doses are expected to be available later this week.
CDC Director Mandy Cohen gave her endorsement of the recommendation Tuesday.
“We have more tools than ever to prevent the worst outcomes from COVID-19,” she said in a statement, stressing that updated vaccinations will “better protect you and your loved ones.”
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ approval comes a day after the Food and Drug Administration authorized the updated vaccine, which targets, among others, the XBB.1.5 subvariant of omicron nicknamed “Kraken.” The emergency use authorization applied to boosters manufactured by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech SE, as well as by Moderna. The XBB.1.5 monovalent vaccines are expected to be available in the coming days, according to Moderna.
The FDA is still reviewing a vaccine booster manufactured by Novavax, according to the company. Novavax claims it would provide the only protein-based COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S., compared to Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA vaccines.
The boosters come amid a surge in COVID-19 cases, with the EG.5 subvariant ― nicknamed “Eris” ― currently causing the majority of cases in the United States. The CDC says that COVID-19 hospitalizations grew by almost 16% the week ending Aug. 26, while COVID-19 deaths increased by more than 10% in the week ending Sept. 2.
Moderna and Pfizer confirmed their new boosters are effective against Eris, as well as the BA.2.86 strain.
The U.S. government ended the COVID-19 public health emergency in May, handing the responsibility of vaccinations over to the private sector. Moderna told the CDC that its new vaccine will be sold at $129 per dose, and Pfizer said its vaccine will be $120 dose. Novavax said that its vaccine would be sold at $130 per dose, but that its contracted price with the CDC is $72.50 per dose.
The vaccines are still expected to be free for most Americans who are covered by health insurance.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the country’s top infectious disease experts and President Joe Biden’s former chief medical adviser, said on Sunday that there is “no doubt” the U.S. is experiencing a rise in COVID-19 cases. But while he is continuing to monitor the uptick, Fauci predicted the country will not be overwhelmed by the virus this winter compared to previous years.
“I think none of us in the public health field are predicting that this is going to be a tsunami of hospitalizations and deaths the way we saw a year or more ago,” he said, stressing that most Americans have COVID-19 antibodies through vaccinations and disease-induced immunity.
This year will mark the first fall and winter virus season in which vaccines are available for COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus and the flu — the three viruses responsible for most hospitalizations, according to the CDC. The agency reported that those who received a 2022-2023 COVID-19 vaccine last season saw greater protection against illness and hospitalization than those who did not receive one.