As the CDC’s Covid Data Tracker web page continues to show, community transmission rates (which are what drives much of the CDC’s recommendations for healthcare facilities and staff) continue to peg the top of the meter. As I write this (Thursday, Sept. 8), 95% of all counties in the US are still at either “substantial” or “high” rates of community transmission. Follow this link to keep up with the rates that affect how your practice should deal with Covid community transmission.
The death rate due to Covid in the United States is still hovering between 12,000-15,000 deaths per month; and it appears we’re going to deal with another winter surge, as the latest Omicron variants are even more transmissible. However, there’s a new tool in our toolbox that wasn’t available even two weeks ago.
Just last week, the FDA and CDC officially signed off on new vaccine boosters developed and produced by Pfizer and Moderna. These new boosters are bivalent, meaning they contain the mRNA vaccine for the original strain of Covid-19 and mRNA vaccine for another strain—in this case, the Omicron strain. The booster specifically targets a part found in BA.4 and BA.5 variants.
“The updated Covid-19 boosters are formulated to better protect against the most recently circulating Covid-19 variant,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. “They can help restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination and were designed to provide broader protection against newer variants.”
This version targeting BA.4 and BA.5 is not very different from previous versions, and health researchers and experts are confident that the safety profile will remain similar enough that they can go ahead and authorize it for use. The safety data from the previous version is also relevant because the new version is “manufactured using the same process,” according to the FDA. The data for humans will be monitored as it becomes available.
The bivalent vaccines can only be used as a booster shot at least two months after the completion of the primary series—or initial required shots—or following a previous booster shot. Many pharmacies already have the booster in stock and are administering them. Our advice: get ahead of the expected winter surge and get your protection updated to cover the latest variants now. Let’s stay safe out there!