CDC expands COVID booster recommendations amid omicron concerns

The CDC expanded its official COVID-19 vaccine booster recommendations Nov. 29, now including all American adults.

Americans 18 years or older should get a booster shot six months after completing the initial immunization series with the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or two months after the Johnson & Johnson shot, according to the CDC.

Previously, the agency recommended Americans over age 50, along with adults living in long-term care facilities, should get booster shots, while all other adults "may" decide to get a booster based on individual risk.  

The emergence of the variant B.1.1.529, known as omicron, further emphasizes the importance of vaccination, boosters and prevention efforts needed to protect against COVID-19, Rochelle Walensky, MD, director of the CDC, said in a Nov. 29 media statement shared with Becker's. Early data from South Africa suggest increased transmissibility of the variant, according to Dr. Walensky, who urged the 47 million American adults who aren't yet vaccinated to do so as soon as possible and to vaccinate the children and teens in their families as well.

Dr. Walensky also encouraged people to get a COVID-19 test if they are sick, noting that increased testing will help identify the omicron variant more rapidly.

The U.S. has not identified any omicron cases yet, according to the CDC. Scientists are currently analyzing the 32 mutations in omicron's spike protein to identify how the variant may affect illness severity and how effective treatments or vaccines are against the strain.  

Francis Collins, MD, PhD, director of the National Institutes of Health, told NPR that "there is no data at the present time to indicate that the current vaccines would not work. So this is just looking at those mutations and going, boy, we'd better really check this out."

Click here for more information on the omicron variant. 


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