A modified single-dose Covid "booster" shot is expected to be available in pharmacies around the time when cold and flu season begins. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave emergency use authorisation for these new shots, and a group of experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that almost everyone in the US should get one.
But when should people in the US go to their local pharmacies for this new vaccine? And how important is it to get another dose, especially considering the number of people who have already been vaccinated or infected with Covid?
What exactly did the FDA approve?
The FDA approved updated versions of the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines. Since Covid continues to spread, much like the flu virus, pharmaceutical companies have developed a booster shot to target one of the most common strains of Covid-19 this season, known as the XBB.1.5 variant.
This autumn marks the first time that adults can receive shots for flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and Covid-19, all of which protect against commonly circulating respiratory illnesses. This year's Covid booster is designed for the XBB.1.5 variant.
Who should get the new booster shot?
When the FDA approves a new vaccine, the CDC provides recommendations on who should receive it and when. In short, the CDC recommended this booster shot for everyone aged six months and older, with a few exceptions.
Do all experts agree with the CDC's recommendation?
While a panel of CDC experts voted in favour of these new recommendations, not all experts are on the same page regarding the strategy. Dr. Paul Offit, an expert in virology and immunology at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and a member of the FDA's vaccine expert panel, believes the government should prioritise the nation's most vulnerable groups.
In 2022, only 43% of people over the age of 65, a group at high risk of severe illness from Covid, received a booster shot. Dr. Offit argues that this particular group should be the main focus of a booster campaign.