New COVID Shots Will Be Available in September

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Aug. 14, 2023 – The newest version of the COVID-19 vaccine will be available by the end of September, according to the CDC. 

The updated vaccine still needs final sign-offs from the FDA and the CDC.

“We anticipate that they are going to be available for most folks by the third or fourth week of September,” Director Mandy Cohen, MD, MPH, said on a podcast last week hosted by former White House COVID adviser Andy Slavitt. “We are likely to see this as a recommendation as an annual COVID shot, just as we have an annual flu shot. I think that will give folks more clarity on whether they should get one or not.”

For people who are considering now whether they should get the currently available COVID vaccine or wait until the new one comes out, Cohen said that depends on a person’s individual risk. People who are 65 or older or who have multiple health conditions should go ahead and get the currently available shot if it’s been more than 6 to 8 months since their last dose. For all other people, it’s OK to wait for the new version.

“If you have questions, talk to your doctor,” she said.

Analysts expect low demand for the updated vaccine. About 240 million people in the U.S. got at least one dose when vaccines first became available in 2021, Reuters reported, but that number dropped to less than 50 million getting the most updated shot in the fall of 2022.

“Take a look at what happened last winter. It was 50 million in the U.S., and it seems likely to be lower than that, given that there’s less concern about COVID this year than last year,” Michael Yee, a health care industry analyst for the firm Jefferies, told Reuters.

Cohen noted during the podcast that the recent uptick in virus activity should be taken in context. 

“What we’re seeing right now in August of 2023 are small increases of folks getting COVID. We are still at some of the lowest hospitalizations that we’ve been at in the past 3 years,” she said. “Even a 10% increase on a very, very small number is still very small. My level of concern continues to be low.”

She said people should remain aware of their own risk level and the risk of people around them, and use the tools that help protect everyone and are known to help reduce the chance of hospitalization. For example, families who are going to visit vulnerable grandparents could give a rapid COVID test to a child who is feeling slightly ill just to be sure the child doesn’t have COVID. 

“Luckily, right now, what we’re seeing with the changes in the viruses is they’re still susceptible to our vaccines, they’re still susceptible to our medicines, they’re still picked up by the tests,” Cohen said. “So all of our tools still work.”