A group of vaccine experts gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday endorsed new COVID-19 shots that more closely align with circulating variants.
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted overwhelmingly in favor of allowing the updated shots in people ages six months and older.
The move comes shortly after the Food and Drug Administration authorized shots from Moderna and Pfizer that target the omicron subvariant XBB.1.5. The FDA authorized a single dose of the shot at least two months after the latest dose for people ages 5 and older. Unvaccinated individuals are authorized to receive three doses of the vaccine, while children under 5 who have previously been vaccinated can get one or two doses.
An updated shot from Novavax is also in the works.
An FDA official said during the meeting that “there is an urgent need for alternatives to mRNA based vaccines including gene based vaccines,” like the Novavax shot.
“And so in that regard, we will review such a submission expeditiously,” he said.
The updated shots come as the U.S. sees its eighth straight week of rising coronavirus hospitalizations. Experts are also watching the fall and winter for possible waves of COVID-19.
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Shots can begin after the CDC director signs off on the committee’s recommendations, which is widely expected.
“We’re already in the midst of an increase in hospitalizations for COVID-19,” CDC Director Mandy Cohen told the committee on Tuesday. “And this virus continues to keep us humble and has continued to change.”
XBB.1.5 was only responsible for about 3% of coronavirus infections in the U.S. in recent weeks, according to CDC estimates. But researchers and vaccine makers are optimistic the shots will protect against severe disease from other circulating variants, including EG.5, or “eris,” and BA.2.86, or “pirola.”
Health officials are eyeing this year’s vaccine update process as the potential prototype moving forward.
“The updated vaccines are expected to provide good protection against COVID-19 from the currently circulating variants,” the FDA said in a press release. “Barring the emergence of a markedly more virulent variant, the FDA anticipates that the composition of COVID-19 vaccines may need to be updated annually, as is done for the seasonal influenza vaccine.”