CDC Recommends Updated COVID-19 Vaccine for Fall/Winter Virus Season
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone 6 months and older get an updated COVID-19 vaccine to protect against the potentially serious outcomes of COVID-19 illness this fall and winter. Updated COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna will be available later this week.
Vaccination remains the best protection against COVID-19-related hospitalization and death. Vaccination also reduces your chance of suffering the effects of Long COVID, which can develop during or following acute infection and last for an extended duration. If you have not received a COVID-19 vaccine in the past 2 months, get an updated COVID-19 vaccine to protect yourself this fall and winter.
The virus that causes COVID-19 is always changing, and protection from COVID-19 vaccines declines over time. Receiving an updated COVID-19 vaccine can restore protection and provide enhanced protection against the variants currently responsible for most infections and hospitalizations in the United States. Last season, those who received a 2022-2023 COVID-19 vaccine saw greater protection against illness and hospitalization than those who did not receive a 2022-2023 vaccine. To date, hundreds of millions of people have safely received a COVID-19 vaccine under the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history.
Most Americans can still get a COVID-19 vaccine for free. For people with health insurance, most plans will cover COVID-19 vaccine at no cost to you. People who don’t have health insurance or with health plans that do not cover the cost can get a free vaccine from their local health centers; state, local, tribal, or territorial health department; and pharmacies participating in the CDC’s Bridge Access Program. Children eligible for the Vaccines for Children program also may receive the vaccine from a provider enrolled in that program.
“We have more tools than ever to prevent the worst outcomes from COVID-19,” said Director Mandy Cohen, M.D., M.P.H. “CDC is now recommending updated COVID-19 vaccination for everyone 6 months and older to better protect you and your loved ones.”
This is the first fall and winter virus season where vaccines are available for the three viruses responsible for most hospitalizations – COVID-19, RSV, and flu. In addition to safe, updated COVID-19 vaccines, at-home tests for the virus can identify infection so you can protect your family, coworkers, and the general public. If you do get sick, talk to your doctor about proven, effective treatments that can reduce the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death.
For more information on updated COVID-19 vaccines visit: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) | CDC.
Information for this media release was secured from research of the website of the CDC at https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2023/p0912-COVID-19-Vaccine.html.
CDC: SARS CoV-2 Sub Lineage BA.2.86 Variant
All viruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2), change over time. These viruses with changes are called “variants.” These changes can affect how contagious a virus is, how well it responds to treatment, and how severely it affects individuals. Last week, a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 called BA.2.86 (which scientists have nicknamed Pirola on social media) was detected in samples from people in Denmark and Israel. At least two cases have been identified in the United States. This variant is notable because it has multiple genetic differences from previous versions of SARS-CoV-2.
The following is what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) knows presently about the BA.2.86 Variant and its potential risk:
- As of August 23, 2023, 9 BA.2.86 variant sequences have been reported globally: Denmark (3); South Africa (2); Israel (1); United States (2) and United Kingdom (1).
- One of the cases in the United States is in a person detected through CDC’s Traveler-based Genomic Surveillance.
- The identification of these cases in multiple geographies is evidence of international transmission.
- Notably, the amount of genomic sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 globally has declined substantially from previous years, meaning more variants may emerge and spread undetected for longer periods of time.
- It is also important to note that the current increase in hospitalizations in the United States is not likely driven by the BA.2.86 variant.
- This assessment may change as additional data become available.
- It is too soon to know whether this variant might cause more severe illness compared with previous variants.
- CDC is closely monitoring hospitalization rates to identify any potential early signals that the BA.2.86 variant is causing more severe illness.
- At this time, locations where this variant have been detected have not experienced increases in transmission indicators (e.g., cases, emergency department visits) or hospitalizations out of proportion to those seen in neighboring locations.
- However, it is early in the emergence of this variant and too soon to evaluate impacts based on these indicators.
- With only nine sequences detected, it is too soon to know how transmissible this variant is.
- Detection across multiple continents suggests some degree of transmissibility.
- This is notable since scientists have not detected transmission of most other highly diverged lineages, which can arise in immunocompromised persons with prolonged infections.
- A United States wastewater sample that was collected as part of routine monitoring in the National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS) has preliminarily indicated the presence of the BA.2.86 variant.
- Scientists are investigating this sample and will continue to closely monitor wastewater for further or more widespread evidence of BA.2.86.
- NWSS is one of multiple monitoring systems CDC uses to detect variants within the United States, and is meant to be used with other COVID-19 public health data to better understand COVID-19’s spread.
- BA.2.86 is a newly designated variant of SARS-CoV-2 that has a number of additional mutations compared with previously detected Omicron variants.
- Specifically, the genetic sequence of BA.2.86 has changes that represent over 30 amino acid differences compared with BA.2, which was the dominant Omicron lineage in early 2022.
- BA.2.86 also has >35 amino acid changes compared with the more recently circulating XBB.1.5, which was dominant through most of 2023.
- This number of genetic differences is roughly of the same magnitude as seen between the initial Omicron variant (BA.1) and previous variants, such as Delta (B.1.617.2).
- The large number of mutations in this variant raises concerns of greater escape from existing immunity from vaccines and previous infections compared with other recent variants.
- For example, one analysis of mutations suggests the difference may be as large as or greater than that between BA.2 and XBB.1.5, which circulated nearly a year apart.
- However, virus samples are not yet broadly available for more reliable laboratory testing of antibodies, and it is too soon to know the real-world impacts on immunity.
- Nearly all the U.S. population has antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 from vaccination, previous infection, or both, and it is likely that these antibodies will continue to provide some protection against severe disease from this variant.
- This is an area of ongoing scientific investigation.
- Examination of the mutation profile of BA.2.86 suggests that currently available treatments like Paxlovid, Veklury, and Lagevrio will be effective against this variant.
- Monitoring is ongoing and CDC will update this document as human data on the impact of this variant on therapeutics become available.
Based on what CDC knows now, existing tests used to detect and medications used to treat COVID-19 appear to be effective with this variant. BA.2.86 may be more capable of causing infection in individuals who have previously had COVID-19 or who have received COVID-19 vaccines. Scientists are evaluating the effectiveness of the forthcoming, updated COVID-19 vaccine. CDC’s current assessment is that this updated vaccine will be effective at reducing severe disease and hospitalization. At this point, there is no evidence that this variant is causing more severe illness. That assessment may change as additional scientific data are developed. CDC will share more as we know more.
At this time, it is not known how well this variant spreads, but it is known that it spreads in the same way as other variants. That means individuals can still take the following actions to protect themselves and others from infection:
- Get their COVID-19 vaccines, as recommended.
- Stay home if they are sick.
- Get tested for COVID-19 if needed.
- Seek treatment if they have COVID-19 and are at high risk of getting very sick.
- If they choose to wear a mask, wear a high-quality one that fits well over their nose and mouth.
- Improve ventilation.
- Wash their hands.
If licensed/authorized by the FDA and recommended by the CDC, updated vaccines will be available as early as mid-September at local pharmacies or doctor’s office.
Information for this media release was secured from research of the website of the CDC at https://www.cdc.gov/respiratory-viruses/whats-new/covid-19-variant.html.
- New Jersey Dept of Health COVID-19 Dashboard
- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
- World Health Organization
- NJ Dept of Labor and COVID-19: What employers and businesses should know
- Coping With Grief
- COVID-19 and Pets / Animals
- Tips for Social Distancing, Quarantine, and Isolation During an Infectious Disease Outbreak
- Social Distancing During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak (Englewood Health YouTube video)
- Order Free COVID-19 Test Kits
Insurance Coverage of Updated COVID-19 Vaccines:
"Up until this point, the federal government had purchased all COVID-19 vaccines and provided them free of charge to anyone, regardless of insurance coverage or ability to pay. COVID-19 vaccines supply this year have transitioned to the commercial market. With commercialization, the way in which vaccines are paid for and whether they are covered by insurance will now be dictated by insurance market rules and regulations. Because of the Affordable Care Act and laws passed during the COVID-19 pandemic, COVID-19 vaccines will continue to be free of charge to virtually everyone with private and public insurance coverage, although uninsured adults will have no guarantee of free vaccines." Source: www.Kff.org
Please see the cheat sheet for details on coverage rules by insurance type and for people who are uninsured.
COVID-19 Vaccine Appointments
Free At-Home COVID-19 Test Kits
New Jersey COVID-19 Dashboard
Weekly COVID-19 PSAs will not long be posted. For up-to-date COVID-19 information including confirmed cases and vaccination rates, visit the NJ COVID-19 Dashboard.
NJ Department of Health COVID-19 Activity Reports
COVID-19 Weekly Activity Reports provide COVID-19 transmission risk data by county. It provide information on how to best protect you and your family depending on the community risk level.