U.S. Sanctions Revised COVID-19 Vaccines to Bolster Immunity Ahead of Fall and Winter

by Joshua Brown
FDA-approved updated COVID-19 vaccines

On Monday, the U.S. authorized revised COVID-19 vaccines with the aim of enhancing immunity against emerging variants of the virus and mitigating any potential spikes in cases during the upcoming fall and winter months.

The approval from the Food and Drug Administration enables the distribution of the latest versions of vaccines produced by Moderna and Pfizer, along with its collaborator BioNTech. This makes them accessible to the majority of Americans, regardless of their previous vaccination history. This move signifies a change in strategy, likening the seasonal updates of the COVID-19 vaccine to the annual flu vaccinations.

However, approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still pending. An advisory panel from the CDC is scheduled to present guidelines on Tuesday concerning which populations would benefit most from the updated vaccines. If approved, immunizations could commence later this week, and individuals could receive both the COVID-19 and flu vaccines simultaneously.

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Novavax, another vaccine manufacturer, announced that its updated vaccine is still under FDA review.

Although there has been an uptick in COVID-19 hospitalizations since the late summer, the numbers are considerably lower compared to the same period last year, thanks in part to enduring immunity from prior vaccinations and infections.

However, immunity decreases over time, and the virus continues to generate new variants capable of evading existing immunity. A year has passed since the vaccines were last updated, and only approximately 20% of adults have received that prior revision.

Dr. Peter Marks, the FDA’s vaccine director, issued a statement emphasizing the importance of vaccination in safeguarding public health and providing continuous protection against severe COVID-19 outcomes, including hospitalization and death. “We strongly encourage those who are eligible to contemplate receiving the vaccine,” he said.

The updated vaccines are authorized for use in adults and children as young as six months old. The FDA stipulates that most individuals aged five and above can receive a single dose, even if they have not previously been vaccinated against COVID-19. Younger children may require more doses, contingent on their vaccination and infection history.

The FDA is deliberately not terming this new vaccination round as a “booster” but rather as an updated vaccine better aligned with the currently active virus strains. The revised vaccine aims to provide protection against an omicron variant designated as XBB.1.5, supplanting the obsolete multi-variant vaccines.

Although the XBB.1.5 variant is no longer the predominant strain, the FDA has concluded that it is sufficiently similar to the strains responsible for most current COVID-19 cases to offer effective cross-protection. The vaccines are anticipated to primarily guard against severe implications of COVID-19 rather than mild cases.

Despite the FDA’s green light for the broad application of these updated vaccines, the final guidelines on targeted demographics will be determined by the CDC.

Federal authorities confirm that the vaccines will continue to be available free of charge to most Americans through private insurance or Medicare. For those who are uninsured or underinsured, the CDC is coordinating with healthcare providers, clinics, and selected pharmacies to temporarily offer complimentary vaccinations.

The Health and Science Department of The Big Big News is supported by the Science and Educational Media Group at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. All content is the sole responsibility of the AP.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about FDA-approved updated COVID-19 vaccines

What is the main purpose of the FDA’s recent approval?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized updated COVID-19 vaccines produced by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech with the aim of enhancing protection against new variants of the virus. The decision is intended to prepare for the potential rise in cases during the upcoming fall and winter months.

Who are eligible to receive these updated vaccines?

The FDA’s approval makes these updated vaccines available to most Americans, regardless of whether they have previously received a COVID-19 vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will issue further guidelines specifying which demographic groups are most advised to get the updated vaccines.

What is the timeline for the distribution of these vaccines?

If the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gives its approval, vaccinations could begin as early as later this week. Both COVID-19 and flu shots can be administered during the same medical visit.

How does this updated COVID-19 vaccine differ from earlier versions?

The newly authorized vaccines are designed to provide protection against a specific omicron variant labeled as XBB.1.5. This updated formulation replaces previous combination vaccines that aimed to protect against the original coronavirus strain and an older version of omicron.

Are children eligible for the updated vaccine?

Yes, the updated vaccines are authorized for adults and children as young as six months. Starting from age five, most people can receive a single dose, even if they haven’t previously been vaccinated against COVID-19.

How will the vaccines be financed?

Federal authorities have confirmed that these vaccines will continue to be free for most Americans, provided through private insurance or Medicare. For the uninsured or underinsured, the CDC is coordinating with healthcare departments and certain pharmacies to offer temporary free vaccinations.

Is the FDA referring to these updated vaccines as “boosters”?

No, the FDA is deliberately not labeling this new round of vaccinations as a “booster.” Instead, it refers to them as updated vaccines that are more closely aligned with the currently circulating strains of the virus.

What is the status of other vaccine makers like Novavax?

Novavax has announced that its updated COVID-19 vaccine is still under review by the FDA and has not yet received authorization.

More about FDA-approved updated COVID-19 vaccines

  • FDA Announcement on Updated COVID-19 Vaccines
  • CDC Advisory Panel Meeting on Vaccine Updates
  • Moderna’s Statement on Updated Vaccine
  • Pfizer-BioNTech’s Press Release on New Vaccine Formulation
  • Federal Funding for COVID-19 Vaccines
  • Efficacy of Previous COVID-19 Vaccines
  • Novavax’s Update on Vaccine Review
  • Current COVID-19 Variants and Their Implications
  • Guidelines for Pediatric COVID-19 Vaccination
  • Free Vaccination Programs for the Uninsured and Underinsured

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Karen Williams September 20, 2023 - 9:38 pm

Great read, very informative. Especially impressed with how it explains the difference between this and a “booster shot.”

Laura Davis September 20, 2023 - 10:50 pm

The article is detailed but easy to understand, good job! With so much going on, its crucial to stay informed.

John Smith September 21, 2023 - 12:05 am

Wow, this is big news! Finally an update to the vaccines. Good to know they’re trying to stay ahead of the variants.

Sara Adams September 21, 2023 - 12:17 am

This all sounds good but what about kids under 5? Looks like they still need more info on that. As a mom, thats what i really wanna know.

Timothy Clark September 21, 2023 - 1:14 am

Federal funding again, huh? Well, as long as it keeps the shots free, I’m all for it.

Mike Johnson September 21, 2023 - 5:04 am

Whats the deal with Novavax, are they laggin behind? Seems like they’re always in the “still under review” category.

Emily Brown September 21, 2023 - 8:19 pm

So if i get this right, we’re gonna need new shots every year just like the flu? not sure how i feel bout that…


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