The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today approved two new mRNA vaccines that target the COVID Omicron variant XBB.1.5 responsible for most infections over the past year. These vaccines also protect against the newest variants responsible for many of the new cases reported in the last month.
The vaccines, from Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna, are expected to be available in Walgreens and CVS pharmacies in the next 7-10 days. The cost of the shots will be covered by Medicare or private insurance, but the cost for the uninsured may be over $100/shot. Unlike previous COVID vaccines, the federal government is not providing free shots for everyone.
The FDA recommended treating these vaccines as a new annual formulation, not another booster. The previous bivalent vaccines contained some XBB.1.5 sequences, but the uptake of those vaccines was so poor that the new vaccine formulations will represent a first stimulus for most adults.
Individuals over 65 years of age are urged to get the new COVID vaccines as soon as they are available. The incidence of hospitalizations and deaths is trending upwards in this age group and the immunity conferred from prior COVID vaccines is waning, so getting the new shots now is essential to help protect against serious illness.
Now that the COVID vaccines are available, it is time for the trifecta. The annual flu shot is available now, as is the new Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) vaccine. For the optimum protection, get all three vaccines before October 1st.