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COVID vaccine creates new immune response to variants

COVID+vaccine+creates+new+immune+response+to+variants
Collegian | Dylan Tusinski

Since the first COVID-19 vaccine became widely available in 2021, booster immunizations have proceeded to maintain public safety. On Sept. 11, the Food and Drug Administration approved an updated vaccine under the trade names Comirnaty, manufactured by BioNTech, and Spikevax, manufactured by Moderna.

The FDA is not calling this new vaccine a booster, as it will instead create a new immune system response to the various variants circulating worldwide. The change in wording communicates the idea that COVID-19 is being treated similarly to influenza. It also allows doctors to recommend annual influenza and COVID-19 vaccines rather than a booster for the variant the 2021 vaccines covered.

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“Like the flu vaccine, the COVID-19 vaccine gets updated to protect against common strains of the virus,” said AnneMarie Harper, the communications director of the Disease Control and Public Health Response Division at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “Just like the virus evolves over time, so does the vaccine. Getting your updated 2023-24 COVID-19 vaccine and annual flu vaccine gives you targeted protection from the viruses circulating right now.”

Everyone 6 months and older is eligible and encouraged to get the updated vaccine. For children between 6 months and 4 years of age, vaccines might vary in dosage depending on if they receive the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, along with doses they’ve received in the past. Some individuals with specific conditions are encouraged to get multiple vaccine doses. People with high-risk underlying conditions should get the updated vaccine immediately.

COVID-19 cases are increasing among all age groups and will likely continue to increase in the coming months,” the Office of Communications and Technology Manager at the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment Kori Wilford said. “The Larimer County Department of Health and Environment strongly recommends that everyone ages 5 years and older get the newest COVID-19 vaccine, regardless of how many COVID-19 vaccines they’ve had in the past. Influenza is also common this time of year, so LCDHE recommends getting a seasonal flu shot at the same time as the new COVID-19 vaccine. These vaccines can provide protection against severe illness as well as hospitalization and death from COVID-19 or the flu.”

Those who experienced side effects from prior COVID-19 vaccines should expect to experience similar side effects from the new vaccine.

This vaccine was manufactured similarly to the previous COVID-19 vaccines, with minor changes performed and tested thoroughly. These vaccines have been administered to millions of people throughout the country, so the FDA has deemed the benefit-risk profile as well understood.

Comirnaty was approved by the FDA as a single-dose vaccine rather than the previously approved two-dosage. Spikevax has also been approved for individuals 12 and older for a single dose, rather than the previously approved two-dosage for people 18 years and older. The new Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines were also approved for emergency use in children between 6 months and 11 years old, as well as for certain immunocompromised children.

COVID-19 vaccination is the best way to avoid outbreaks and disruptions to campus life and learning,” Harper said. 

The updated vaccine is available through the commercial market, making it free for all individuals with public or private insurance. Uninsured children will also be able to access the vaccine for free through the CDC’s Vaccines for Children program.

The CDC also grants updated vaccines to millions of adults without health insurance at no cost. By utilizing the CDC Bridge Access Program, uninsured individuals can pick up a COVID-19 vaccine for free at federally supported health centers, healthcare providers and retail pharmacy chains participating in the program. CVS, Walgreens and eTrueNorth have signed new contracts with the CDC to provide this access.

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Reach Alexander Wilson at science@collegian.com or on Twitter @alexgrey0604.

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