With two weeks to go until Thanksgiving, people eligible for an updated Covid-19 vaccine booster but who still haven’t received the jab will have to roll up their sleeves on Thursday to get as much protection as possible. Before the holidays.
Health officials are concerned about a possible increase in respiratory illnesses this winter – including Covid-19, influenza, RSV and rhinovirus – and they are urging people who are not up to date on their Covid-19 vaccines to get vaccinated as soon as possible. possible.
“The way it creates protection is by creating these proteins, which we call antibodies, which then circulate through the bloodstream. Well, it can’t be done with the snap of a finger. There is a biological process taking place,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.
After receiving the updated Covid-19 vaccine, this biological process can take around 10-14 days.
“So it starts right away, and gradually you get more and more of these antibodies into your bloodstream until, within about two weeks, you’re close to peaking,” said Schaffner. “The booster actually works like a booster: you get a faster rise in antibodies than if you were starting from scratch.”
The rollout of updated boosters has been slow, and there is an urgent need to bolster protection before gathering with family and friends for the holidays – the pandemic’s first festive season since most prevention measures, including including masks and social distancing, have largely become things of the past.
In October, White House Covid-19 response coordinator Dr Ashish Jha said getting the updated Covid-19 vaccine was ‘the most important thing’ Americans can do for their health at present.
“The single most important thing every American can do to reduce their likelihood of having significant, preventable health problems over the next three to six months is to get an updated Covid vaccine,” Jha said. “Beyond that, we need to ensure that anyone over 50 or with high-risk conditions receives treatment if they are infected. We have treatments widely available.
As colder weather arrives, people are spending more time indoors and more holiday celebrations are planned, concern is mounting among local health officials that there will be some increase in the spread of Covid-19, influenza and RSV in the coming weeks, said Lori Tremmel Freeman, executive director of the National Association of County and City Health Officials.
This concern is heightened by the fact that relatively few people in the United States have obtained the Covid-19 vaccine recall update which is now available for ages 5 and up.
“The message from local health departments on this is that you should now – if you are eligible and able – receive your booster to protect yourself during the holidays,” Freeman said.
“The more time that passes since you received your last booster, the more your immunity wanes and the more susceptible you become to contracting the virus again,” she said. “So all of these things together indicate that we have prevention to do right now as we prepare for the end of the year and the holiday season upon us.”
According to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coverage is highest among seniors: More than 1 in 5 seniors who got their primary series also received an updated reminder, compared to about 1 in 15 adults under 30.
But the pace of dissemination is relatively slow.
About 1 in 5 adults who have their main streak say they probably or definitely won’t get the updated booster – a share that’s been consistent since at least September. CDC data shows.
“What will clearly happen if we still don’t have widespread acceptance of this Covid booster is that the anticipated increase that we expect with Covid this winter will increase even more,” Schaffner said. “So we could make the season worse from a more serious illness point of view.”
He added that with the increase in influenza activity, a continued increase in RSV and growing concerns about a possible increase in Covid-19 this winter, that is why it will be important to get vaccinated against Covid-19. and the flu before the holidays – and to make sure those around you get vaccinated, wash their hands and stay home when sick.
“You could have a rule: you’re all welcome at the Thanksgiving table, for example, if you’re vaccinated and not just against Covid, against the flu too,” Schaffner said.
Health officials say it’s good to get the Covid-19 reminder and flu vaccine update at a time.
The flu is already spreading at high levels in some areas.
Last week, government health officials have warned of an early and severe start to cold and flu season in the United States, saying they were closely monitoring hospital capacity and medical supplies and were ready to send help if needed.
“We suspect that many children are being exposed to certain respiratory viruses for the first time, having avoided those viruses during the height of the pandemic,” said Dr. Jose Romero, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. .
In the United States, cases of RSV and influenza are on the rise. At the same time, Covid-19 cases, which had been declining, appear to have leveled off over the past three weeks, Romero said. A slew of new variants gained traction against BA.5, the Omicron sub-variant that caused a wave of disease over the summer.
Looking ahead, some vaccine makers, including Novavax, Pfizer and BioNTech, are developing two-in-one combination vaccines that will provide protection against influenza and Covid-19 in a single injection.
Last week, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that the first study participant received a dose of its investigational influenza-Covid combination vaccine in a Phase 1 trial. The candidate vaccine contains components from the companies’ updated Covid-19 booster and their investigational influenza vaccine flu.
In October, Novavax announced that its combined Covid-19 and influenza vaccine generated immune responses against both coronavirus and influenza strains, showing “positive results” in a phase 1/2 clinical trial. This trial is “the first of its kind” to evaluate a combined Covid-flu vaccine, the company said, and information from the trial will inform a phase 2 study expected to begin by the end of this year. The experimental vaccine is a two-in-one combination of Novavax’s Covid-19 vaccine and its quadrivalent influenza vaccine candidate.
Moderna is also developing a combination influenza and mRNA Covid-19 vaccine and another combination vaccine targeting influenza, Covid-19 and RSV.
Health officials have long suspected that Covid-19 vaccinations will be required every year in the future, in the same way that seasonal flu vaccines are given each year.
A combination vaccine could be available as soon as next flu season, Freeman said, making it easier for people to roll up their sleeves on an annual basis.
“We’ll see maybe as early as next year,” she said. “And it will help people make that choice more easily to get both their flu and Covid either together in a vaccine or together at once wherever they can get a shot.”