Covid Vaccines May Roll Out Within Days

The latest Covid boosters are expected to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration as early as Monday, arriving alongside the seasonal flu vaccine and shots to protect infants and older adults from R.S.V., a potentially lethal respiratory virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to follow up on Tuesday with an advisory meeting to discuss who should get the new shots, by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. After a final decision by the C.D.C.’s director, millions of doses will be shipped to pharmacies, clinics and health systems nationwide within days.

As Covid cases creep up, the prevention measures could portend the first winter of the decade without a crush of patients pushing hospitals beyond capacity. But a healthy winter is far from a lock: Last year, the updated Covid vaccine made it into the arms of only 20 percent of adults in the United States.

Some experts view that statistic with little alarm because the number of Covid deaths slowed over the last year, thanks to an increasingly immune population and higher vaccine rates among older Americans. Others see this year as an opportunity to protect more vulnerable people from severe illness or death.

“We now have some really good tools,” said Dr. Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, a public health group. “It’s just — what is it going to take to get people comfortable with using them?”

Federal officials have been retreating from labeling the new formulation as boosters to previous shots, preferring to recast them as an annual immunization effort akin to the flu vaccine. That shift may reflect concern over the fatigue that some Americans have expressed about yet another round of shots against the virus.

The vaccine campaign will also be the first since the end of the public health emergency, which expired in May. In previous years, the U.S. government bought hundreds of millions of vaccine doses and distributed them for free. This year, private insurance and government payers like Medicare that cover the vast majority of Americans are expected to provide the vaccines to people for no fee.

But the question remains whether the private market of hospitals, clinics and pharmacies will be able to calibrate their vaccine orders to stock a realistic supply. Experts are uncertain how much demand there will be for the latest shots.

“There could be a period in here where things are a little bit chaotic, and that’s never a good situation,” Dr. Plescia said.

Also of concern in the handoff to the private market: the nation’s 23 million adults with no health insurance. The Biden administration has made plans to cover costs and offer the Covid vaccine through local clinics and major pharmacies, but some experts are worried about whether people who lack insurance will be aware of the new shots — or where to get them.

“They don’t have an insurer sending them leaflets — they may not have a usual source of care,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, a California advocacy group. “And so the trusted messenger of their health plan, their doctor, their clinic, is not there saying, ‘It’s no cost. It’s really easy.’”

Vaccine manufacturers are expected to donate doses for the uninsured. Kelly Cunningham, a spokeswoman for Moderna, said the company had no cap on the number of Covid vaccine doses it planned to donate.

The latest shots are becoming available as Covid hospitalizations and deaths are rising slightly, albeit not to the levels of past years. In the week ending Aug. 26, there were 17,400 people admitted to the hospital — more than about 6,000 at a low point this summer. Deaths were also up to about 600 a week last month, though far lower than the weekly average of 14,000 deaths of 2021.

Once the vaccines are approved and the C.D.C. signs off, the Biden administration plans to urge the public to get their Covid and flu shots at the same time, a practice that has been studied and deemed safe, an administration official said. It’s a messaging effort they expect to share with major vaccine makers, which will be marketing the Covid doses commercially for the first time.

Walgreens and CVS said they both already have the updated flu and R.S.V. shots available in stores. Once Covid vaccine approvals are in place, Dr. Kevin Ban, Walgreens’ chief medical officer, said the chain would have the new shots on hand “as soon as possible.” A CVS spokesperson said doses could be arriving later this week. Representatives of both chains said the Covid shot would be available at no cost to all who are eligible under the C.D.C. guidelines expected Tuesday.

Targeted populations most certainly will include people 65 and older as well as those who are immunocompromised or have serious underlying medical conditions that leave them more susceptible to severe illness from the virus.

Nursing homes, some of which were host to inoculation teams from the major drugstore chains when vaccines first became available, are now relying on their usual long-term-care pharmacies to supply most vaccines. But many homes have fallen behind on booster rates: Recent Medicare data show that about 62 percent of residents are up-to-date on their shots even though older adults are among the most vulnerable to severe disease and death from the virus.

The new Covid vaccines target the XBB.1.5 variant, which was dominant when vaccine makers began to formulate and test a new version. Though the virus has had a rotating cast of variants, experts say the new Covid jab should fortify protections against severe infection.

Sahred From Source link Health

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *