CDC Recommends Americans Get New COVID Shots This Fall

CDC Recommends Americans Get New COVID Shots This Fall

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that all Americans six months and older get an updated COVID-19 vaccine in the fall, regardless of whether they’ve been vaccinated against the virus in the past. 

“Our top recommendation for protecting yourself and your loved ones from respiratory illness is to get vaccinated,” Mandy Cohen, MD, director of the CDC, said in a statement. “Make a plan now for you and your family to get both updated flu and COVID vaccines this fall, ahead of the respiratory virus season.” 

The guidance comes amid a summer COVID wave, which is now a familiar pattern in the United States. Data from the CDC show that COVID-related emergency room visits for the week ending June 22 were up more than 23% compared to the week before, with deaths increasing by more than 14%. 

Here’s what you need to know about the vaccine available this fall.

Luis Alvarez / Getty Images

The vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer will target the KP.2 strain of COVID-19, which CDC data show is the second-most common strain of the virus in the U.S. right now. Currently, the KP.3 virus variant is the most common. Both KP.2 and KP.3, along with KP.1.1, are part of the so-called FLiRT variants that are heavily circulating now in the country.

The Novavax vaccine, on the other hand, will target JN.1, the parent variant of KP.2 that was the top strain circulating this past winter. 

Officials from the Food and Drug Administration initially recommended that vaccine manufacturers target JN.1. As KP.2 gained dominance, they changed the recommendation to suggest that a new vaccine focus on that strain instead.

So far, vaccines have lowered the risk someone will be hospitalized or die from a COVID infection, Amesh A. Adalja, MD, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told Health. “It’s unclear how well and how durably current vaccine technologies are able to do that in the face of a heavily mutating virus,” he told Health.

CDC officials did not provide a specific date for when the vaccines will be available, saying only that Moderna, Novavax, and Pfizer will roll out updated vaccines in the fall.

The last COVID-19 vaccine, which was an update to the previous vaccine, was available in the fall of 2023, but only about 20% of Americans actually got it.

“Pediatricians and family doctors are going to have to be very, very persuasive” to get patients to receive the updated vaccine, John Sellick, DO, an infectious disease expert and professor of medicine at the University at Buffalo, told Health. “Last year’s updated vaccine was not as widely accepted as we had hoped,” he continued. “This year will be another challenge.” 

Adalja stressed the importance of vaccination in people who are considered high risk, which are those who are immunocompromised, over 65, or who have serious underlying health conditions like cancer, diabetes, and heart conditions. “The key message should be to vaccinate the high risk,” he said.

However, William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, told Health that “it’s going to be a hard sell” to get Americans as a whole to get another COVID-19 vaccine. 

“We need to get into this framework of, ‘Here’s your annual flu shot and your annual COVID shot,’” he said. “Hopefully, by making it part of health maintenance, we’ll get people to accept this better.”

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