JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Moderna has now joined Pfizer in asking the Food and Drug Administration to approve a fourth shot of its COVID-19 vaccine.
It’s a sign the companies are preparing for a wave of the new COVID-19 variant known as “stealth omicron” or BA.2.
This new variant is already in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of last week, BA.2 made up more than 23% of all new cases in the U.S.
Even though this new variant is expected to become the dominant variant, medical experts are not as concerned this time around -- if people are vaccinated.
There seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Health officials have started talking about transitioning out of the COVID-19 emergency phase, with less than 1% of people now living in areas with high community levels.
“We want to make sure that people have an opportunity to relax their mitigation strategies when things are good, as they are right now,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, CDC director.
But that doesn’t mean COVID-19 has just disappeared.
“I would not be surprised ... given the fact that we’ve begun to open up and we have an increase in BA.2 variant, that we’ll be seeing an increase in cases,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director.
Chad Neilsen, UF Health Jacksonville director of infectious disease and prevention, says hospitals in the Jacksonville area are not as concerned as they were before with delta and omicron.
“It’s certainly something we’re watching right now, but that’s why you’re also hearing this news of another potential booster shot to boost immunity for certain folks if we start seeing those widescale outbreaks here in the states,” Neilsen said.
This week, Pfizer asked the FDA to approve an additional booster shot for anyone 65 and older, while Moderna asked for the authorization for all adults, saying in a news release the request was made “to provide flexibility” to the CDC and medical providers to determine appropriate use including for those at higher risk due to age or co-morbidities.
News4JAX asked Neilsen if he thinks a healthy person who has had three shots is going to need a fourth.
“I do think it’s going to be needed for certain populations because we know that these booster shots have been keeping people from getting severe illness and hospitalized across the United States. I think it is coming for certain populations, but to be determined if we’re going to roll this out mass to everyone,” Neilsen said.
As of right now, Dr. Ashish Jha, the Biden administration’s incoming White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said they’re not expecting this variant to trigger another national surge with almost half of the population vaccinated and boosted.