COVID-19 vaccines emerge before peak virus season
With the winter months rapidly approaching, health care professionals are getting ready to roll out an updated COVID-19 vaccine for people here and across the country.
In May, Idaho’s COVID-19 stopped updating its for cases and testing numbers, but that does not mean COVID-19 hospitalizations and related deaths have disappeared here.
As of Sept. 19, the Idaho Division of Public Health reported 52 emergency department visits and one death due to COVID-like illnesses. On Sept. 18, there were 54 hospitalized patients with “suspected or confirmed COVID-19”
Manufacturing and Test Distribution
On Sept. 20, 2023, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) teamed up with the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) to announce a $600 million investment to boost the manufacturing and distribution of COVID-19 tests.
“Manufacturing COVID-19 tests in the United States strengthens our preparedness for the upcoming fall and winter seasons, reduces our reliance on other countries, and provides good jobs to hardworking Americans,” said Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O’Connell in a press release.
The new 2023-24 COVID vaccine has been formulated similarly to the annual flu vaccine: it’s created based on which strains will likely be prominent in the coming months.
Andrew Pekosz is a professor of microbiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and said the new vaccine is targeting an Omicron variant that’s been circulating since late spring.
“The good news is that while it's not a perfect match, it's really closely related to the variants that are currently circulating so it should give you a much nicer boost in immunity,” Pekosz said. “The other thing to remember is the virus has really changed since the last Bivalent booster was out and so this sort of updates the virus and the vaccine as well.”
Who Can Get Vaccinated
The Centers for Disease Control recommends anyone six months or older to get the updated vaccine and says it’s the best way to prevent hospitalization or death from the virus.
Most insurance plans cover all of the vaccine costs. The CDC says anyone without insurance can get a free shot from health centers; local, tribal or territorial health departments and pharmacies working with the CDC’s Bridge Access Program. Children can get the shot through the Vaccines for Children program through enrolled providers
“One vaccine and you're done, even if you've never been vaccinated before,” Pekosz said. “Because of that prior exposure, because of vaccination and infection, we can now simplify the vaccine message to the population and start fine tuning everybody's responses to really match what's circulating as opposed to at the beginning of the pandemic where we were starting with no one had immunity and we were trying to build through vaccination a high amount of long lasting immunity.”
The FDA approved the new Moderna and Pfizer vaccines this month. Check with your health care providers for the availability of the newest vaccine.