US officials voice optimism on coming virus battle

Senior officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) told reporters this week that they are emboldened by a new spate of preventive medications for COVID-19 and RSV.


“We are in our strongest position yet to be able to fight COVID-19 as well as the other viruses that are responsible for the majority of fall and winter hospitalizations, namely flu, COVID as well as RSV,” a CDC official said in a briefing Thursday.


The new mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna will be fully licensed vaccines for individuals 12 and older and will be under an emergency use authorization for children 11 and younger. They haven’t been cleared by the FDA yet, but the CDC’s outside expert panel, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, is scheduled to meet Sept. 12.


Officials said the rollout will begin in mid-September, but they did not give a specific date. 


The new COVID shots give “robust” protections against the now-dominant EG.5 omicron subvariant, but officials said it’s still too early to know their effectiveness against the recently detected BA.2.86 strain.


Like last year, seniors or immunocompromised people needing a second COVID-19 vaccine dose will likely be able to get one a few months after the first. For people age 65 and older, an additional shot may be “reasonable” a few months after the first, an FDA official said. 


What else is new this year? People for the first time ever will have access to preventive medicines against RSV. 


Two RSV vaccines have been approved for adults over the age of 60, one preventive monoclonal antibody has been approved for infants and toddlers, and a vaccine administered to pregnant mothers so they can pass on immunity to their newborns has recently just been approved by the FDA.


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