Don't wait for an omicron-tailored booster, experts warn

With omicron-specific vaccines expected this fall, many eligible people who aren't up to date with their boosters are debating whether to get them now or hold off until the updated shots are available, CBS News reported July 16. 

The highly transmissible BA.5 omicron subvariant is fueling a surge in cases and hospitalizations. The strain has made reinfections more common, as studies have shown it is particularly good at evading immune protection from prior infection and vaccination. Federal health officials are urging people to stay up to date with boosters amid the wave to prevent severe illness. Second boosters are currently available only to people aged 50 and older and those 12 and older who are immunocompromised, though White House officials are weighing plans to expand eligibility to all adults. 

"There are many people who are at high risk right now, and waiting until October, November for their boost — when in fact their risk is in the moment — is not a good plan," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said during a White House briefing, CBS reported. 

The FDA in late June directed vaccine manufacturers to target BA.4 and BA.5 in updated bivalent vaccines. Still, there's no guarantee a new strain won't pop up and gain dominance by then. Another factor complicating booster uptake is confusing guidance regarding vaccination status, experts stay. While federal officials urge boosters, the CDC's definition of "fully vaccinated" remains the same: completing the primary series of either two doses of Pfizer or Moderna's vaccine or one dose of Johnson & Johnson's. Those who receive recommended booster doses are considered "up to date." 

 

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