The CDC has recommended a new COVID-19 vaccine more effective...

The CDC has recommended a new COVID-19 vaccine more effective against the variants now circulating. Credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday recommended the new COVID-19 vaccine for all Americans 6 months and older, and experts hope making it an annual jab akin to a flu shot will help clear up confusion that may have led to low uptake of previous boosters.

CDC Director Dr. Mandy Cohen released a statement announcing the recommendation shortly after the agency’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 13-1 to support it.

The vaccine is designed to more effectively fight against the omicron variants that are circulating, and to pump up the immune system as protection wanes over time from immunity that previous vaccines and prior infections provided.

Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and pharmacy chains said in news releases that the vaccines will be available in the “coming days” in pharmacies and other locations.


  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday recommended the new COVID-19 vaccine for all Americans 6 months and older.
  • CDC Director Dr. Mandy Cohen announced the recommendation after a CDC committee backed wide distribution of the vaccine.
  • The vaccine, which is expected to be in pharmacies and other locations in the coming days, will more effectively fight against the COVID-19 strains currently circulating, experts said.

The recommendation comes at roughly the same time of year as authorizations of previous updated vaccines, in 2021 and 2022, that added to the initial two shots most Americans received.

“I think it will definitely be an annual vaccine,” said Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of pediatric infectious diseases for Stony Brook Medicine.

Only about 1 in 7 Long Islanders received the 2021 and 2022 booster shots, and making the vaccine something people expect to receive every year will help reduce uncertainty about the need for updated shots, she said.

“Now everyone knows this is the one you get for the season, and you’re finished,” she said.

The CDC committee’s action came a day after the Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine.

The CDC and FDA have not used the word “booster” to describe the new vaccine, even though “all vaccines essentially boost your immune system,” said Stephanie Silvera, an epidemiologist and professor of public health at Montclair State University in New Jersey.

“It is almost unhelpful to use the term booster, because I think it sends a message to some portions of the population that ‘the vaccines don't work,’ and ‘they're just going to keep giving us these boosters,’ rather than looking at it as like an annual flu shot,” she said.

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have increased in recent weeks, although they remain well below the numbers from late last summer.

Some infectious-disease specialists wanted the CDC to recommend the vaccine only for those 65 and older and others at higher risk for severe COVID-19, arguing that they are most in need of immunization.

But, Nachman said, “It's not good public health policy to say you cannot get this vaccine.”

A younger, healthier person may want the vaccine to protect a high-risk loved one, she said.

And although older people are at significantly higher risk of severe COVID-19, projections presented at the CDC committee meeting estimate that vaccinating everyone 6 months and older rather than just people 65 and older would prevent about 200,000 hospitalizations and 15,000 deaths over two years.

Silvera said the emphasis in vaccination campaigns should be on getting those at highest risk to get vaccinated, as well as health care workers, teachers and others “most likely to have high-dose exposures … so that we can limit the number of people who are out sick with severe illness so that it doesn't have a negative impact on how society runs.”

The vaccine targets the XBB.1.5 omicron variant, which has been dominant in New York most of this year but in the two weeks ending Sept. 2 made up fewer than 3% of infections in the region that includes New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico, according to CDC data that is based on testing of virus samples and projections of trends.

The omicron variants now dominating are similar to XBB.1.5, and the vaccines will be effective against them, vaccine experts said.

The CDC’s broad recommendation means the large majority of Americans with private insurance, Medicaid or Medicare can receive free shots, if they’re done in-network, said Jennifer Kates, senior vice president and director of the Global Health & HIV Policy Program at the San Francisco-based health-policy nonprofit KFF.

It’s unclear when a federal program to provide vaccines to the uninsured will start and how many people it will benefit, she said. CDC spokeswoman Belsie González on Monday said the agency is planning to release more details later this week.

Harmony Healthcare Long Island, which runs nine nonprofit health centers in Nassau that serve many uninsured people, believes there will be enough federal funding to provide free shots at Harmony to any uninsured person who wants one, said David Nemiroff, president and CEO of Harmony.

“My biggest concern is we haven’t had a lot of folks who wanted to be vaccinated,” he said of previous updated shots.

This year, he said, “We have had people ask about the flu shot, but not the COVID shot.”

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