Omicron COVID-19 booster shots are coming: Will they be a game-changer?


The next generation of COVID-19 booster shots — specifically tailored to combat the superinfectious family of Omicron subvariants — could be rolled out early next month.

The long-awaited offer would mark an ambitious new phase in the country’s vaccination campaign and, officials say, give residents another option to protect themselves ahead of a possible coronavirus resurgence in the fall and winter.

But who can roll up their sleeves this time? And do those who have already gotten one or two boosters really need another? This is what we know.

When will the Omicron booster shot be available?

The new booster could be available sometime in September, said Dr. Ashish Jha, White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator at a recent forum. But the shots must first be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a signal that the agencies may be close to a disclosure, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has scheduled a meeting for Sept. 1-2. The committee usually meets to make recommendations to the CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, before making recommendations about who should get the vaccine.

“We haven’t seen anything official yet, but we plan to deliver it to all of our vaccination providers,” said Dr. Muntu Davis, a Los Angeles County health official, said on Thursday about the timing of the new boosters. .

Who would be eligible to take the photos?

While the latest call is still pending, eligibility is expected to be broad.

Pfizer asked the FDA Monday to approve its new Omicron booster injection for people ages 12 and older. Moderna made the same adult request on Tuesday for its booster.

What is the benefit of getting the new booster?

The newest dominant Omicron subvariant, BA.5, differs in a number of ways from the original strain against which the vaccines were designed, Jha said.

While the original vaccines still do relatively well at keeping people out of intensive care and dying, he said, their effectiveness in preventing infection has declined over time because of the evolution of the Omicron strain.

In particular, BA.5 has not only been shown to be highly transmissible, but can also re-infect those who have recently overcome an attack from a previous strain of the coronavirus.

The Omicron booster, Jha added, represents a potentially substantial upgrade in the vaccine “in terms of their ability to prevent infection, prevent transmission, certainly prevent serious illness and death.”

dr. Peter Chin-Hong, a UC San Francisco expert on infectious diseases, said the Omicron booster will help prevent people’s lives from being disrupted by infection.

As of mid-July, unvaccinated Californians were seven times more likely to get COVID-19, nearly 12 times more likely to be hospitalized with the disease, and 11 times more likely to die than their vaccinated and fortified counterparts, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Health.

When should people get the new booster?

In general, many officials and experts recommend getting a booster as soon as you qualify, especially if you are at higher risk of serious health consequences from COVID-19.

But others may decide to wait a little longer, until October or November, as the booster’s potency is likely to diminish over time, as has been the case with other vaccine doses.

Peak effectiveness will likely be in the four or five months after the injection, with the maximum effectiveness one month after the injection, according to Chin-Hong.

In the first fall-and-winter wave of the pandemic, coronavirus cases in California began to increase in November and accelerate sharply in December. In last year’s fall-and-winter wave, cases began to climb in December.

Federal officials have said people who received a conventional booster shot — including a second booster — earlier this year are eligible for the Omicron booster.

Should I get a conventional booster now or wait for the Omicron booster?

Since Omicron boosters can only be weeks away, it depends.

Existing CDC guidelines recommend that most adults and children ages 5 and older receive a booster at least five months after completing their primary vaccination course. (Immune-compromised people should get their booster at least three months after the primary vaccination course.)

Adults 50 and older and immunocompromised people are recommended to get a second booster at least four months after their first booster.

According to Chin-Hong, people over 65 who are overdue for a booster should now receive the conventional injection.

Getting a conventional booster now would also make sense for people who are, say, five or more months away from their last COVID-19 vaccination, qualify for a booster, and are about to find themselves in a riskier situation, such as taking a trip abroad, he added.

“If you’re going to places with a lot of exposure – like you’re going to Europe – you might want to consider taking the fourth shot sooner [rather] then later,” UC San Francisco epidemiologist Dr. George Rutherford said recently at a campus town hall. But getting a conventional booster now may mean waiting to qualify for the Omicron booster, he said.

Other people who are already late for a booster may reasonably decide to wait for the Omicron shot, he said.

What about children under 12 years old?

Neither Pfizer nor Moderna has requested permission to offer Omicron boosters to children under the age of 12. That age group is already far behind others in terms of vaccination coverage.

Doctors recommend vaccinating younger children, even if it is with the conventional vaccine, given its effectiveness in protecting against hospitalization.

Vaccinations are important, Chin-Hong said, because “you can’t really always predict who will go to the hospital [from COVID-19] in the age group under 12, and you don’t know which variant is coming. So I think it behooves everyone to think seriously about vaccinating children.

“We’ve been getting more and more data that it’s effective for the most severe outcomes,” he said.

Chin-Hong cited a recent study of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 during the first Omicron wave in Singapore, which found that completing the primary vaccination course was 83% effective against hospitalization.

“We have not seen any serious side effects in children aged 5-11” as a result of vaccination, Dr. Rhea Boyd on an American Academy of Pediatrics website. “It’s safe and it works.”

Vaccinations can also reduce the chance of long-term side effects after experiencing COVID-19, including long-term COVID. In addition, a diagnosis of COVID-19 is associated with a higher risk of developing diabetes for both adults and children.

American children between the ages of 5 and 11 were eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations last November and a booster in May.

Children under 5 were eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in June. Pfizer said Tuesday that the vaccine was 73% effective in preventing COVID-19 in children 6 months to 4 years old. Before the shots became available, pediatricians said the Omicron variant pushed hospitalizations for children ages 4 and under to the highest levels of the entire pandemic.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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