Colorado health officials announced that an updated COVID-19 vaccine will be available for Coloradans as early as Thursday, September 14, 2023. The updated vaccine targets only one strain of the coronavirus, but is expected to provide protection against other variants as well.
What is the updated COVID-19 vaccine?
The updated COVID-19 vaccine is a mRNA vaccine developed by Pfizer and Moderna, similar to the previous vaccines that were authorized for emergency use in late 2020 and early 2021. However, the updated vaccine has been modified to target only one strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, namely the XBB.1.5 strain of the omicron variant, which is also known as the “Kraken” strain.
The XBB.1.5 strain was first detected in South Africa in December 2022 and quickly spread to other parts of the world, becoming the dominant strain by February 2023. The strain is characterized by a high number of mutations in the spike protein, which enables the virus to attach to human cells and infect them. The mutations also make the strain more resistant to the antibodies generated by the previous vaccines and natural infection.
The updated vaccine aims to elicit a stronger immune response against the XBB.1.5 strain by using a more specific and potent version of the spike protein. Scientists believe that the updated vaccine will not only protect against the XBB.1.5 strain, but also against its descendant lineages, including the EG.5.1 and FL1.5.1 strains, which are also known as the “Eris” and “Fornax” strains, respectively. These strains are currently the most prevalent in the United States, accounting for more than 80% of the cases nationwide.
The updated vaccine also hopes to provide some degree of protection against the BA.2.86 strain of the coronavirus, which is also known as the “Pirola” strain. The Pirola strain is the most mutated strain of the virus so far, with more than 100 changes in its genome. The strain was first detected in Brazil in July 2023 and has since been found in more than 20 countries, including the United States. The strain is highly contagious and has been associated with more severe disease and higher mortality rates. However, the effectiveness of the updated vaccine against the Pirola strain is still uncertain and requires further studies.
Who can get the updated COVID-19 vaccine?
The updated COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for anyone 6 months of age or older who has been fully vaccinated with the previous vaccines or has not been vaccinated at all. The updated vaccine can be administered at least 2 months after the last dose of the previous vaccines, regardless of the manufacturer. The updated vaccine requires only one dose and does not need a booster shot.
The updated vaccine is also safe and effective for people who have had previous COVID-19 infection, as it can boost their immunity and prevent reinfection. However, people who have had COVID-19 should wait at least 90 days after their recovery before getting the updated vaccine, as they may still have some natural immunity.
The updated vaccine is not recommended for people who have had a severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine or to a previous dose of the vaccine. People who have a moderate or severe acute illness should also wait until they are fully recovered before getting the updated vaccine. People who have a weakened immune system or a chronic medical condition should consult their health care provider before getting the updated vaccine, as they may need additional doses or precautions.
How can I get the updated COVID-19 vaccine?
The updated COVID-19 vaccine will be available at various locations across the state, including hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and mass vaccination sites. The vaccine will be free of charge for all Coloradans, regardless of their insurance status. People who are interested in getting the updated vaccine can visit the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) website to find a vaccine provider near them and schedule an appointment. People can also call the Colorado COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at 1-877-CO VAX CO (1-877-268-2926) for assistance.
The CDPHE encourages all Coloradans to get the updated vaccine as soon as possible, as the state is facing a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, especially among the unvaccinated population. The state reported more than 5,000 new cases and 123 hospitalizations on Wednesday, September 13, 2023, the highest numbers since May 2023. The state also has a low vaccination rate, with only 62% of the eligible population fully vaccinated and 68% partially vaccinated.
The CDPHE warns that the upcoming fall and winter seasons could pose a greater risk of COVID-19 transmission and complications, as respiratory viruses tend to thrive in colder and drier conditions. The CDPHE also urges Coloradans to continue following the public health guidelines, such as wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands, and avoiding large gatherings, to prevent the spread of the virus and protect themselves and others.