New Wave of COVID-19 Vaccination Begins in the US and Western Europe
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the US agency tasked with combating infectious diseases, is gearing up for a comprehensive vaccination campaign against the latest variants of COVID-19. This news comes just five days after the announcement of the first lady of the United States testing positive for COVID-19.
The plan is to introduce updated COVID-19 vaccines in the near future, perfectly timed to coincide with the seasonal flu shots. Medical experts are hopeful that vaccinating enough people will prevent another "triple pandemic" like last year, when hospitals struggled with an early flu season, RSV( respiratory syncytial virus) pressure, and another winter surge of the coronavirus.
While COVID-19 hospitalizations have been steadily rising since late summer, it's not as severe as the same time last year. However, RSV is already increasing in some parts of the southeastern US.
"This winter, there will be many viruses. That's why we want to get ahead of it," said Dr. Mandy Cohen, head of the CDC.
Approval for the updated COVID-19 vaccines is expected within days. These new vaccine versions, according to the new CDC director, are among the tools that will "put us in our strongest position" to avoid another chaotic respiratory season.
The evolving coronavirus won't disappear entirely. Similar to annual flu vaccine updates, this autumn, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) anticipates COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers will release a new version.
Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax have already created new versions of their COVID-19 vaccines.
The FDA will soon decide whether these vaccine versions meet safety, effectiveness, and quality standards. After this, the CDC will initiate vaccination efforts. The CDC's advisory committee plans to convene on September 12 to provide recommendations for the best use of the latest vaccines.
Last two weeks, European regulators approved the updated Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for use this autumn in adults and children as young as 6 months. The UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced on September 5 that it had approved the updated Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, specifically targeting the Omicron XBB.1.5 subvariant.
And prior to that, on 30th August, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced that its Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) also approved the updated COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer (PFE.N) and its German partner BioNTech (22UAy.DE). This vaccine is targeted towards the dominant Omicron XBB.1.5 variant.
Besides Pfizer-BioNTech, other vaccine manufacturers, Moderna and Novavax, have also created so-called monovalent versions of their vaccines, targeting only the XBB.1.5 virus subvariant.
While the US plans to deploy all three vaccines this autumn, the UK plans to roll out the mRNA vaccines Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna for the fall vaccination campaign.
"The best thing people can do to return to normalcy is to keep up with booster shots," said vaccine expert David Montefiori from Duke University.