Vaccines still key to slowing COVID-19 pandemic, experts say

As the number of reported COVID-19 cases teeters at about 100,000 each day, health experts warn there isn't an easy fix but pointed to two tools aimed at tackling the pandemic: improving nationwide vaccination rates and the potential of omicron-targeted boosters. 

About 78 percent of the population has received one vaccination dose and more than two-thirds, 66.9 percent, have received two doses, according to the most recent CDC data. The number of people with a booster dose lags behind with more than half of Americans lacking a booster. 

The number of administered vaccinations spiked in March 2021, December 2021 and the beginning of April 2022, but the demand for vaccines has been on a gradual decline, CDC data shows. With children as young as 6 months old now eligible to be vaccinated, those rates could inch back up. 

Infectious disease experts agree that bolstering immunity is the first step toward suppressing — but not outright squashing — COVID-19. 

"This virus is not going anywhere, and it's going to continue to circulate for a number of years, if not forever," Thomas Russo, MD, an infectious diseases physician at the University at Buffalo (N.Y.), told CNBC

On June 28, an FDA panel recommended updated vaccine boosters that prove to be effective against omicron. Before they're deployed, which is expected to be this fall, the boosters will need authorization from the CDC and FDA. 

Some are hesitant to place bets on the revised vaccines, though. 

The director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Dan Barouch, MD, PhD, told ABC News they could be "helpful" but are unlikely to be "game changers."

 

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