While Covid case numbers may presently be falling, Americans should not be lulled into thinking they do not need the latest booster vaccine — as the threat of another winter wave looms.
This is the warning of doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and beyond as we find ourselves having passed this summer’s peak of the virus.
Speaking at an event in Boston on Wednesday, CDC Director Mandy Cohen explained: “What I want folks to understand is that protection is decreasing over time — and this virus is changing.
“Yes, you may have had Covid a while back, and that gives you some protection.
“But to get the most protection against this form of the Covid virus that’s circulating right now, get the updated Covid vaccine.”
Professor Ashish Jha is a global health expert and the former White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator, having served in this role from 2022–23.
At an online event last week, US News reported, Jha said: “In terms of today, where we are, it is clear we had this late summer wave.
“It really appears to have crested and is heading down, but as we head into the winter months… Each of the last few winters we have seen the virus come back up again.
“My expectation is [that] we’re going to see a further decline within probably the next month or two, and then we’re going to see the virus starting to rise again as we get into the holidays and beyond.”
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According to the CDC, the most recent Covid hospitalisation statistic was 19,000 people in a week-long period.
However, the CDC have warned that “infectious disease experts and scenario models provide evidence that this season is likely to bring a moderate COVID-19 wave — causing around as many hospitalizations at the peak as occurred at last winter’s peak”.
Last winter’s wave saw a peak in weekly Covid-related hospital admissions of nearly 44,500 individuals.
This figure is less than a third of the all-time peak of 150,600 seen in January, but nevertheless still substantial.
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Professor Andrew Pekosz is a molecular microbiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
He told US News: “One thing that I wouldn’t want people to think is that maybe the need to go get a Covid vaccine is lessened since we’re seeing a downturn in hospitalizations.”
In addition, experts also recommend booster vaccinations as a way to help minimise the risk of long Covid, a condition thought to have already affected some seven percent of US adults.
Pekosz added: “It is clear that if you’re up to date on your vaccines, your rate of getting long Covid after infection is much lower than if you’re not vaccinated.”
The newly-updated vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna — approved last month — are specifically designed to target the BB.1.5 omicron subvariant — popularly dubbed “kraken” — which was formerly dominant, but accounted for only one percent of recent new infections.
However, experts say that the new formulations should also offer protection against currently circulating subvariants, including the new BA.2.86 “pirola” strain.
Pekosz explained: “Even though it’s really highly mutated, it doesn’t evade as much of that pre-existing immunity as we thought it could.”
He added: “So — so far, so good in terms of the variants and the vaccines being a good match.”
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