Vaccines for new COVID-19 variant expected to be rolled out by fall

Updated COVID-19 vaccines for this fall season are expected to be available in October.
Published: Aug. 9, 2023 at 1:51 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 9, 2023 at 1:52 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Updated COVID-19 vaccines for this fall season are expected to be available in October.

The vaccines target the most recent variant that’s circulating, called XBB.1.5.

Dr. Mark Dougherty, an epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist at Baptist Health Lexington, says the fall is a good time to roll it out as people head indoors.

“I think it is a good time. We’re seeing the numbers go up right now. They’re not anywhere close to what they’ve been in the past, but they’ve definitely gone up,” said Dr. Dougherty.

He says the XBB.1.5 variants are all related to the omicron variant that’s been circulating for over a year now.

“The old antibodies that were formed from the previous doses just aren’t very active against the new strain,” said Dr. Dougherty.

The previous vaccine update was the bivalent vaccine. Dougherty says it targeted the BA.4 and BA.5 variants.

“I think there’s going to be an updated vaccine on an annual basis right now,” Dr. Dougherty said.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Dr. Dougherty said XBB.1.5 was by far the predominant strain and now a descendant has emerged called EG.5. However, Dr. Dougherty says the new vaccine formula should still help against EG.5.

“Fortunately, all of these last strains, the omicron strain in particular, is primarily an upper respiratory infection. So the immune system seems to be able to stop it better in the upper respiratory tract,” Dr. Dougherty said.

Moderna, Pfizer and Novavax are expected to offer the updated shots. Nearly all people will be eligible for it, but Dr. Dougherty said doesn’t expect many young and healthy people to get it.

“I really don’t think that there are going to be many people who are outside of high-risk areas getting the vaccine booster this fall,” said Dr. Dougherty said.

Dr. Dougherty says he expects it’ll be a once-a-year dose.

The FDA is expected to give approval to all three COVID-19 vaccines over the next two months. At that time, the CDC will also give new recommendations before they’re officially rolled out.