Sunday 19 March 2023

CDC Recommends Updated COVID Booster Targeting Omicron Strains

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued an advisory recommending updated booster shots for teens to fight against the recent Omicron variant surge. A day earlier, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also authorized the usage of a COVID-19 booster vaccine dosage made by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech

The booster dose falls in category of bivalent vaccines, which offer protection against two viruses or two different strains of the same virus. In this case, the booster COVID-19 vaccine greenlit by the CDC contains messenger 

RNA (mRNA) components of the original strain of SARS-CoV-2 as well as the BA.4 and BA.5 strains of the Omicron variant that has been wreaking havoc lately. The recommendation comes months after the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee voted to add an Omicron component to COVID-19 booster vaccines. 

According to the official CDC research document, the U.S. government has purchased 171 million bivalent mRANA COVID-19 vaccine booster doses ahead of the vaccination rounds slated for flu season, and beyond. A fresh vaccination campaign that begins in the early Fall is estimated to save anywhere from $63 billion to $109 billion in medical costs, with a majority of it linked to avoiding hospitalisation and related expenses.

Any person who is 18 years of age, or older, is eligible for the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine (Bivalent). For the bivalent vaccine shot synthesised by Pfizer-BioNTech, any individual 12 years of age, or older, is eligible. However, the updated booster vaccine should only be administered if there is a gap of at least two months since the most recent vaccination round for each individual, according to the FDA

In clinical trials, involving 1,400 participants, it was found that the bivalent vaccine enhances the immune response and provides a high level of protection against future infection and transmission. Per official estimates, over 200 million people will be eligible for the bivalent COVID-19 vaccine. There is no change in the dosage though.

Despite a fresh chemistry, the vaccine dosage and total antigen amount will remain the same. The monovalent Moderna vaccine — which earlier contained 50 micrograms of spike protein from the original SARS-CoV-2 virus — now contains 25 micrograms each of spike protein from the ancestral and the Omicron (BA.4 and BA.5) SARS-CoV-2 variant. In case of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — which had a dosage amount of 30 micrograms — it's bivalent version will now have 15 micrograms each of spike protein sourced from the original virus strain and the two Omicron variants.


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