- Updated COVID-19 boosters are under FDA review. Pfizer and Moderna claim efficacy against new strains EG.5 and BA.2.86
- The CDC advises staying up to date with your COVID-19 booster
- RSV is another respiratory illness to watch for. It can cause severe illness and even death in high-risk individuals
- The CDC also recommends an RSV shot for older adults and Beyfortus for babies
With kids back in school, juggling your daily routines can already be a handful. However, as colder weather ushers in, two new COVID-19 variants and respiratory viruses are circulating.
You may be worried about you or your loved ones falling sick.
Read on to learn more about how to protect yourself and your family from these infections.
Latest on new COVID-19 strains Eris & Pirola
As Fall approaches, we continue to find and fight new COVID-19 variants.
On the plus side, the new strains do not seem to make most people severely ill, like the original COVID-19 virus and variants did at the height of the pandemic.
On the other hand, as noted below, there is an uptick in COVID-19 hospital admissions, so it's important to stay aware and take reasonable precautions.
EG.5 strain (Eris) cases are rising
The Omicron subvariant EG.5, also known as Eris, is causing a growing number of hospitalizations.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hospital admissions from COVID-19 grew by over 15% in the week ending August 26th. The CDC also notes that EG.5 is responsible for 21.5% of new COVID cases in the US.
EG.5 threat level: The World Health Organization (WHO) evaluates the public health risk from Eris as low. The agency has, however, classified EG.5 as a 'Variant of Interest' due to the rise in global cases and a mutation in its spike protein, which may help it evade our immunity.
New BA.2.86 strain (Pirola) under monitoring
WHO classified BA.2.86 as a Variant Under Monitoring (VUM), and infectious disease experts are concerned about this strain because it has multiple mutations—almost 30 different ones from last year's BA.2—on its spike protein.
According to the CDC, these mutations may help Pirola evade our immunity, even better than EG.5 and previous strains.
BA.2.86 threat level: The bottomline is that, currently, Pirola cases are very low. So, we do not have enough data to tell if BA.2.86 will lead to a larger public health issue.
In any case, help is on the way.
Vaccine makers, Moderna and Pfizer, developed booster shots to address evolving COVID-19 strains.
Do the new COVID-19 boosters work against EG.5 and BA.2.86?
As of now, these vaccines await FDA authorization, but here's what you need to know:
- Moderna claims that its booster generated an 8.7 to 11 times increase in antibodies against BA.2.86 versus the natural immune response (based on human clinical trials)
- Pfizer stated that its shot (developed together with BioNTech), generated antibodies against BA.2.86 in a preclinical study conducted on mice.
These new COVID-19 booster shots were initially updated based on CDC recommendations to offer better protection against Omicron variants, like XBB.1.5 (which was the dominant strain in 2022 and early 2023).
Do you need a COVID-19 booster?
- The CDC recommends that everyone six months and older stay updated with their COVID-19 shots and boosters. This means that people aged 6 years and older get an updated Pfizer or Moderna shot, even if you received the original COVID-19 vaccine.
- According to the CDC, people over 65 may get an additional dose four or more months after the first updated COVID-19 vaccine. If you are immunocompromised, you may be eligible for an additional dose of the updated COVID-19 vaccine two or more months after the previous updated COVID-19 vaccine.
- The CDC recommends the updated COVID-19 vaccine, even if you had COVID-19 in the past, delaying the shot by three months from when symptoms first started.
According to the CDC, people in a high-risk group for COVID-19 are:
- Older adults, aged 65 and over
- Individuals with underlying medical conditions
- Immunocompromised individuals with weakened immune systems
- Pregnant people.
When should you get your COVID-19 booster?
Dr. Rob Rohatsch, Chief Medical Officer at Solv Health, notes, "According to the FDA, the new boosters may be available any time now in September, once they are authorized. You may consider getting a new booster shot once they are available. However, if you live in an area with a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations, or plan to travel to one, consider getting a COVID-19 shot that is already available to offer some protection."
You can also schedule your COVID-19 shots in a center near you using Solv.
Latest on new RSV vaccines and Beyfortus
RSV, respiratory syncytial virus, is a common respiratory illness making the rounds in Fall 2023.
In severe cases, RSV can lead to pneumonia and bronchial infections.
RSV season is here
RSV cases have been on the rise in the United States:
- The CDC estimates that RSV hospitalizes about 80,000 children under five, each year
- On September 6th, the CDC warned about an increase in RSV cases, particularly in the Southeastern region, including Florida and Georgia
- The CDC anticipates RSV infections to spread north and west over the coming months.
Who is at high risk for RSV?
RSV can infect people of all ages, and the CDC reports that many recover from their infection in a week or so.
However, the CDC advises that RSV infections can be severe, and even deadly. Each year, about 10,000 seniors and hundreds of children may die from RSV infections.
People at high risk of RSV infections, according to the CDC, are:
- Older adults (60 and over)
- Newborns (born from a parent infected with RSV late in their pregnancy).
Do RSV vaccines protect against RSV infections?
Earlier this year, the FDA approved two RSV vaccines to help lower the risk of severe disease and hospitalizations in older adults, 60 years and older.
The FDA also authorized Pfizer's RSV vaccine for people who are pregnant.
GSK's Arexvy RSV vaccine
The first RSV vaccine to be FDA-approved is GlaxoSmithKline's (GSK) Arexvy, a single dose for older adults, including those with underlying conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and more.
- GSK's clinical trials suggest that their vaccine is effective in seniors for two seasons. This means, older adults may only need the vaccine once every two years
- According to GSK, one dose of the shot was 67.2% effective in preventing RSV over two seasons (82% effective after one season)
- The shot also proved 78.8% effective against severe RSV disease after two seasons (versus 94% after one season), according to GSK trial data.
Pfizer's Abrysvo RSV vaccine
Pfizer's RSV vaccine is sold under the brand name Abrysvo and is administered as a single dose. The FDA approved the vaccine in May this year.
- Abrysvo proved 89% effective against RSV infections in people aged 60 and older in clinical trials in the first year, reports the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).
- The NEJM reports that the shot was 78.6% effective against severe illness in older adults mid-way through the second season
- Abrysvo was also recently approved for late-stage pregnant individuals (32-36 weeks) to help protect themselves and their newborns from RSV.
Beyfortus, the preventive RSV shot for babies
RSV vaccines may protect the elderly, but how do we protect our babies?
To address this issue, the FDA approved Beyfortus (nirsevimab), a preventive shot that helps babies make antibodies to resist RSV infections. The drug is approved for infants and children up to two years of age.
Need to schedule COVID-19 or RSV shots for you and your loved ones? Solv can help you find a healthcare provider near you.
Frequently asked questions
Do you need an RSV vaccine?
Dr. Rohatsch says, "RSV cases are on the rise, and the virus can infect people of all ages. If you are in a high-risk group and eligible, consider getting an RSV shot to protect yourselves and your loved ones."
When should I get an RSV shot?
According to the CDC, you do not have to wait to get an RSV vaccine if you are over 60 years of age, or in the late stages of your pregnancy.
Can I get all three shots together - COVID-19, RSV, and the flu vaccine?
It is advisable to talk to your healthcare provider if you would like to schedule your shots together.
Dr. Rohatsch notes, "Many people like the convenience of getting all their shots at one time, but your healthcare provider can assess your risk and offer guidance on when would be best for you. So far, there is no definitive answer on whether it's best to get them together or separately."
Does my baby need Beyfortus?
The CDC recommends Beyfortus for infants and children up to two years of age. The shot is part of the Vaccines for Children program, which may help offset the cost of the drug.
Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
- CDC COVID Data Tracker (September 5, 2023)
- CDC COVID Data Tracker: Variant Proportions (September 7, 2023)
- WHO EG.5 Initial Risk Evaluation ( August 9, 2023)
- WHO Tracking SARS-CoV-2 variants (August 17, 2023)
- Update on SARS CoV-2 Variant BA.2.86 (August 30, 2023)
- Moderna Clinical Trial Data Confirm Its Updated COVID-19 Vaccine Generates Robust Immune Response in Humans Against Widely Circulating Variants (August 17, 2023)
- Moderna, Pfizer Say Updated COVID-19 Vaccines Protect Against eg.5 (August 18, 2023)
- Moderna, Pfizer Say Updated COVID Shots Generate Strong Response vs Newer Variant (September 7, 2023)
- Interim Recommendations for Use of Bivalent mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines for Persons Aged ≥6 Months — United States, April 2023 (June 16, 2023)
- CDC Stay Up to Date with COVID-19 Vaccines (July 17, 2023)
- Factors That Affect Your Risk of Getting Very Sick from COVID-19 (May 11, 2023)
- Updated COVID-19 Vaccines for Use in the United States Beginning in Fall 2023 (June 16, 2023)
- Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection (RSV) (August 4, 2023)
- RSV in Infants and Young Children (August 4, 2023)
- CDC Increased Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Activity in Parts of the Southeastern United States: New Prevention Tools Available to Protect Patients (September 05, 2023)
- People at High Risk for Severe RSV Infection (October 28, 2022)
- FDA Approves First Vaccine for Pregnant Individuals to Prevent RSV in Infants (August 21, 2023)
- FDA Approves First Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Vaccine (May 03, 2023)
- Gsk Shares Positive Data for Arexvy, Its Respiratory Syncytial Virus (Rsv) Older Adult Vaccine, Indicating Protection Over Two Rsv Seasons (June 21, 2023)
- ABRYSVO (August 23, 2023)
- Efficacy and Safety of a Bivalent RSV Prefusion F Vaccine in Older Adults (April 20, 2023)
- FDA Approves New Drug to Prevent RSV in Babies and Toddlers (July 17, 2023)
- CDC Recommends a Powerful New Tool to Protect Infants from the Leading Cause of Hospitalization (August 3, 2023)