CDC offers new guidelines on COVID-19 vaccinations, recommending booster amid new variant

A new omicron variant known as XBB.1.16 emerged in India, and positive cases have already been recorded in Harris County.


A nurse vaccinates a patient.

The CDC's new simplified guidelines for COVID-19 vaccinations recommend patients be given the updated bivalent vaccine moving forward, regardless of previous vaccination status. They also recommend an additional booster for immunocompromised individuals and people over the age of 65.

Dr. Luis Ostrosky, chief of infectious disease at UT Health Houston and Memorial Hermann, said the change in guidelines comes as a result of the confusion that the variety of vaccines and boosters have caused for people at different stages in the vaccine regimen.

"There was a lot of confusion as to how many doses and for whom, et cetera," he said. "So what both the FDA and the CDC did with this update is they cleaned up the vaccination guidance. It pretty much says, as of now, we only use the bivalent vaccine, both for primary vaccination and for boosters."

Ostrosky said this is because the variants have changed over time, so the original monovalent vaccine series may not offer as much protection.

The update also makes a recommendation for those over the age of 65 and immunocompromised individuals to receive another bivalent booster, even if they already got one last fall. Most others will not be eligible for another booster until fall 2023.

Currently, Ostrosky said, Harris County COVID numbers are down.

"We're currently at very low levels, both in terms of clinical cases and wastewater positivity rates," said Ostrosky. "The positivity rate is near 5% currently."

Meanwhile, at the end of last month, a new omicron variant known as XBB.1.16 emerged in India, and positive cases have already been recorded in Harris County.

Ostrosky cautioned that there could be spikes later on, especially with a new variant. While the current bivalent booster doesn't specifically target the most recent strain, it does target omicron variants, from which the most recent variant emerged.

"The boosters we have going on right now are omicron lineage, and they’re likely to offer some immunity against the current variants, which are all omicron lineage," Ostrosky said. "Undoubtedly, the best thing you can do to protect yourself from a severe outcome with COVID is staying as updated as you can with your vaccines and boosters."

A new booster is expected to come out this fall, and Ostrosky said it is "very likely," it will target the most recent variants.

Most of those over the age of 65 and immunocompromised people are now eligible for another bivalent booster dose, which Dr. Ostrosky recommends if it has been four months or more since their last booster.

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