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CDC Panel Approves Revised COVID-19 Vaccine

by Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent, NJ Spotlight News

This story is being republished under a special NJ News Commons content-sharing agreement related to COVID-19 coverage. Link to story:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has officially recommended almost every American get an updated COVID-19 vaccination. Dr. Mandy Cohen, the director of the CDC, said, “We have more tools than ever to prevent the worst outcomes from COVID-19. The CDC is now recommending updated COVID-19 vaccination for everyone 6 months and older to better protect you and your loved ones.”

By a vote of 13 to one, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices approved a reformulated COVID-19 vaccine for 2023-2024. The vaccine is set to arrive at pharmacies within days. Made by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, this reworked formula targets current omicron variants like XBB, EG5 and BA286, which are now circulating in the U.S.

The panel recommended the shot for people ages six months and older, as the fall respiratory virus season nears and COVID-19 hospitalization rates tick slowly upward. Health experts recommend this new vaccine version.

“So what we’re finding is any immunity that you got from some of those previous boosters has essentially worn off. We are in very different territory with new variants,” said epidemiologist Stephanie Silvera. People’s ability to fight infection drops away, she noted, whether their immunity came from a vaccination or a prior case of COVID-19. And the CDC emphasized that COVID-19 keeps evolving, just like influenza.

Perry Halkitis, dean of Rutgers School of Public Health, said, “I would say anyone who does not want to have very severe COVID disease should also consider taking the booster much like we take a new flu vaccine every fall.”

This time around, there’s one big change: The federal government will not buy all vaccine and distribute it for free. Pharmacies will pay an upfront list price of $120 to $130 per dose, plus the cost of administering the shot. “It looks like the Moderna vaccine was coming in anywhere between $140 to $155 per shot,” says pharmacist Brian Pinto of Tiffany Natural Pharmacy in Westfield.

The Biden administration will purchase some doses and drugmakers are expected to contribute free doses, as well. Health insurance is expected to pick up the cost for those with coverage. Pinto said, “Traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans have already said that it will be paid. And most major commercial plans, as well.”