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'Defences tend to fade over time': US health agency recommends older to get another COVID shot this spring

The final recommendation from director Mandy Cohen comes after an expert advisory group to the CDC said US adults aged 65 and older should get a second annual COVID-19 shot this spring, strengthening their recommendations from last year.

Ajeet Kumar Edited By: Ajeet Kumar @Ajeet1994 Washington Published on: February 29, 2024 7:18 IST
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Image Source : REUTERS COVID jab

Washington: Older US adults should roll up their sleeves for another COVID-19 shot, even if they got a booster in the fall, an influential government advisory panel said on Wednesday. The panel voted 11-1 to say Americans 65 and older should get another dose of the updated vaccine that became available in September — if at least four months have passed since their last shot. The committee advises the head of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, who will decide whether to sign off on the recommendation.

The panel's decision came after a lengthy discussion about whether to say older people “may” get the shots or if they “should" do so. That reflects a debate among experts about how necessary another booster is and whether yet another recommendation will add to the public's growing vaccine fatigue.

 No substantial waning in vaccine effectiveness: Probe

Some doctors say most older adults are adequately protected by the fall shot, which built on immunity derived from earlier vaccinations and exposure to the virus itself. And preliminary studies so far have shown no substantial waning in vaccine effectiveness over six months.

However, the body's vaccine-induced , and that happens faster in seniors than in other adults. The committee had recommended COVID-19 booster doses for older adults in 2022 and 2023.

COVID remains a danger 

COVID-19 remains a danger, especially to older people. There are still more than 20,000 hospitalisations and more than 2,000 deaths each week due to the coronavirus, according to the CDC. And people 65 and older have the highest hospitalisation and death rates.

Some members of the advisory panel said a “should" recommendation is meant to more clearly prod doctors and pharmacists to offer the shots. “Most people are coming in either wanting the vaccine or not,” said Dr. Jamie Loehr, a committee member and family doctor in Ithaca, New York. “I am trying to make it easier for providers to say, Yes, we recommend this.'”

In September, the government recommended a new COVID-19 shot recipe built against a version of the coronavirus called XBB.1.5. That single-target vaccine replaced combination shots that had been targeting both the original coronavirus strain and a much earlier omicron version.

CDC recommended the new shots for everyone 6 months and older

The CDC recommended the new shots for everyone 6 months and older, and allowed that people with weak immune systems could get a second dose as early as two months after the first. Most Americans haven't listened. According to the latest CDC data, 13 per cent of US children have gotten the shots and about 22 per cent of US adults have. The vaccination rate is higher for adults 65 and older, at nearly 42 per cent.

“In each successive vaccine, the uptake has gone down,” said Dr. David Canaday, a Case Western Reserve University infectious diseases expert who studies COVID-19 in older people.

“People are tired of getting all these shots all the time,” said Canaday, who does not serve on the committee. “We have to be careful about over-recommending the vaccine.”

But there is a subset of Americans — those at higher danger of severe illness and death — who have been asking if another dose is permissible, said Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University vaccines expert who serves on a committee workgroup that has been debating the booster question.

Indeed, CDC survey data suggests that the group's biggest worry about the vaccine is whether it's effective enough. Agency officials say that among those who got the latest version of the COVID-19 vaccine, 50 per cent fewer will get sick after they come into contact with the virus compared with those who didn't get the fall shot. 

(With inputs from agency)

Also Read: WHO chief Ghebreyesus says nearly 10,000 died from COVID-19 last month


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