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

The next generation of COVID-19 reminders — specifically tailored to combat the super-infectious family of Omicron subvariants – could be rolled out early next month.

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

But who can roll up their sleeves this time? And those who have already received a reminder, or two, really need to get another one? Here’s what we know.

When will the Omicron booster shot be available?

The new booster could be available in September, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said in a recent forum. But the shots will first need to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a signal that the agencies may be close to an unveiling, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has scheduled a meeting for Sept. 1-2. The committee typically meets to offer recommendations to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky before she offers recommendations on who should get vaccinated.

“We haven’t seen anything official yet, but we plan to get it out to all of our vaccine providers,” Los Angeles County Health Officer Dr. new reminders. .

Who would be eligible to get the shots?

Although the final call is still pending, the eligibility is expected to be wide.

Pfizer on Monday asked the FDA to clear its new Omicron booster for people 12 and older. Moderna did the same request Adult Tuesday for his encore.

What is the benefit of getting the new booster?

Omicron’s last dominant sub-variant, BA.5, differs many different ways of the original strain against which the vaccines were designed, Jha said.

While the original vaccines are still relatively successful in keeping people out of the intensive care unit and dying, he said, their effectiveness in preventing infection has declined over time due to the evolution of the Omicron strain.

BA.5, in particular, was found not only to be highly transmissible but also able to re-infect those who have recently overcome a bout with an earlier strain of the coronavirus.

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

Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert from UC San Francisco, said the Omicron booster will help prevent people’s lives from being disrupted by an infection.

In mid-July, unvaccinated Californians were seven times more likely to contract COVID-19, nearly 12 times more likely to be hospitalized with the disease, and 11 times more likely to die than their vaccinated and boosted counterparts, according to the latest data of the State Department of Public Health.

When should people get the new booster?

As a general rule, many officials and experts recommend getting a booster as soon as you’re eligible, especially if you’re at higher risk for serious health consequences from COVID-19.

But others may decide to wait a bit, until October or November, because the potency of the booster will likely diminish over time, as it has with other vaccine doses.

Peak effectiveness will likely be within four or five months of firing, with peak effectiveness one month after injection, according to Chin-Hong.

During the first fall and winter wave of the pandemic, coronavirus cases in California began to rise in November and accelerated sharply in December. During last year’s fall and winter surge, cases began to rise in December.

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

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

Since the Omicron boosters could be a few weeks away, it depends.

existing CDC tips recommends that most adults and children aged 5 and over receive a booster at least five months after completing their primary series. (Immunocompromised individuals should receive their booster at least three months after the primary vaccination.)

Adults 50 years and older and immunocompromised individuals are recommended to receive 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 get the conventional vaccine now.

Getting a conventional booster now would also make sense for people who are, say, five months or more away from their last COVID-19 inoculation, are eligible for a booster, and are about to find themselves in a higher-risk situation. , like taking a trip abroad, he added.

“If you’re going to be hiking in very exposed places – like if you’re going to Europe – you might want to consider taking the fourth shot earlier. [rather] only later,” UC San Francisco epidemiologist Dr. George Rutherford said at a recent campus town hall. But getting a conventional booster now may mean you’ll have to wait to become eligible for the Omicron booster, he said.

Others already late for an encore may reasonably decide to wait for Omicron’s hit, he said.

What about children under 12?

Neither Pfizer nor Moderna have requested permission to offer Omicron boosters to children under 12. This age group already late others in terms of vaccination rates.

Doctors recommend having young children vaccinated, 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’s going to the hospital. [from COVID-19] in the under 12 age group, and you don’t know what variation is coming. So I think it’s up to everyone to think seriously” about vaccinating children.

“We’re 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 Omicron’s first push in Singaporewhich found that completion of the primary series was 83% effective against hospitalization.

“We haven’t seen any serious side effects in children aged 5 to 11” after being vaccinated, Dr Rhea Boyd wrote on a website of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “It’s safe and it works.”

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

American children between 5 and 11 years old became eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations last November and for a reminder in May.

Children under 5 became eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in June. Pfizer Tuesday said his vaccine was 73% effective in preventing COVID-19 in children 6 months to 4 years old. Before vaccines became available, pediatricians said the Omicron variant pushed hospitalization rates for children 4 and under to the highest level of the whole pandemic.

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