US FDA Recommends ‘Harmonizing’ Primary COVID Doses and Boosters, Updated Vax Effective, World Covid Stats

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AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File

FILE – A patient waits to be called for a COVID-19 vaccination booster shot outside a pharmacy in a grocery store, on Nov. 3, 2021, in downtown Denver. U.S. regulators have opened up COVID-19 booster shots to all and more adults, letting them choose another dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. (AP Photo/David…

The vaccine advisory panel for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Thursday voted to recommend matching the composition of primary COVID-19 vaccines doses and booster doses, which would make all vaccines administered consist of the updated bivalent dose.

The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) was asked on Thursday to consider making all COVID-19 immunizations match in composition, which in this specific case would mean phasing out the original coronavirus vaccine and only administering the bivalent shot.

The bivalent mRNA shot contains components of both the original COVID-19 ancestral strain, as well as the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants. The booster was authorized for use in September.

Under the current FDA authorization, the bivalent boosters are available to people as young as six months. The shot can be administered at least two months following a primary series vaccination or a previous monovalent booster shot.

All 21 voting VRBPAC members present at the meeting voted in favor of making this recommendation. While the FDA is not required to abide by the committee’s recommendations, the agency usually follows the panel’s vote.

Archana Chatterjee, VRBPAC member and dean of the Chicago Medical School, endorsed the recommendation as a way of reducing confusion people may have regarding different vaccine formulations that are currently available.

“Speaking with colleagues, friends, family — questions I’m answering from the community. There’s so much confusion about these different formulations that I think anything we can do to ease up on that confusion and simplify things is going to be a good thing,” Chatterjee said. “Having vaccines is not sufficient. We need to have them be used.”

Explaining her decision to vote yes on the recommendation, fellow committee member Hayley Gans, professor of pediatrics at Stanford University, said she felt it was important to move “towards the strains that are circulating.”

While this recommendation, if adopted, would mean phasing out the original COVID-19 mRNA vaccines, some members of the committee noted that the ancestral vaccine has been shown to still offer protection against symptomatic infections.

Amanda Cohn, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Birth Defects and Infant Disorders, noted that implementing primary series vaccinations with the bivalent doses would likely take some time and advised that people not hold off on getting vaccinated in order to get the updated shots as their first rounds of immunization.


CDC: Updated subvariant vax just as effective

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New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that the updated bivalent COVID-19 vaccines do not lose significant efficacy in preventing symptomatic coronavirus cases caused by the XBB.1.5 omicron subvariant when compared to previous strains.

  • “We did not see reduced vaccine protection against symptomatic illness for XBB and XBB.1.5 compared with those other recent BA.5 variants. Quite reassuring,” CDC spokesperson Benjamin Haynes said in a press briefing Wednesday.
  • Data released in the CDC’s most recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) shows, through a comparison between people who had and had not received the updated shot, that the bivalent booster dose was 52 percent effective at preventing symptomatic coronavirus cases caused by the BA.5 omicron subvariant and 48 percent effective at preventing symptomatic cases caused by XBB and XBB.1.5 subvariant infections.

What this means: According to Ruth Link-Gelles, CDC epidemiologist and lead author of the MMWR, the findings can be interpreted to mean that vaccines currently cut the risk of symptomatic cases in about half the population.


The CDC also found that the updated boosters provided extra protection against symptomatic coronavirus cases caused by XBB.1.5 for at least three months after vaccination.


To make these determinations, the CDC analyzed national testing data from Dec. 1 to Jan. 13 and looked for symptomatic cases among adults who were not immunocompromised. For the purposes of the CDC’s study, symptomatic cases were defined as having one or more COVID-19 symptoms.


Coronavirus Cases:





Highlighted in green
= all cases have recovered from the infection
Highlighted in grey
= all cases have had an outcome (there are no active cases)

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