Earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, as signs of waning immunity and changes in the virus prompted the release of additional doses of the vaccine, health officials began urging Americans to seek out “booster” shots to improve their protection against the virus.
Now with onethis fall, officials are changing that message to move away from the word “booster.”
Instead, doctors and health departments are now working to get used to it calling this year’s newly recommended shot the “2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine” or simply the “updated COVID-19 vaccine.”
Virtually all Americans ages 6 months and olderof these updated shots from Moderna or Pfizer, regardless of what vaccines they have or have not received before.
“Bye bye, booster. We no longer give boosters, and it’s going to be very difficult to stop using that word because that word has become pervasive,” Dr. Keipp Talbot, a member of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Committee on Vaccine Advisors said.
Talbot spoke on Thursday at webinar hosted by the Infectious Diseases Society of America titled, in part, “COVID-19 New Booster Vaccine & Variants Update.”
“We’re starting to think of COVID like the flu. The flu changes every year and we give a new vaccine every year. We don’t ‘boost’ every year,” Talbot said.
No more “primary series”
The change in terminology stems from a proposalsfirst endorsed by a panel of Food and Drug Administration outside advisers back in January, to dramatically simplify the timeline for approved and approved COVID-19 vaccines.
Most Americans initially received a “primary series” of shots that targeted the original strain of the virus early in the pandemic. After that, a mix of “booster” doses were offered — some targeting newer varieties — with varying guidelines depending on a person’s age and what shots they’ve previously received.
That made it difficult for some people and their doctors to figure out if they were “up to date” on their shots. Meanwhile, still unvaccinated Americans who wanted to catch up faced a need to get through the “primary series” doses of the old vaccine formula before they could qualify for the latest versions of the shots.
Later, when the FDA announced that it approved and approved the latest formulation of the vaccines on Monday, targeting the XBB.1.5 strain of the virus, the agency’s Press release did not mention “booster” doses.
“To clarify, these vaccines will not be considered ‘boosters’ per se. These vaccines, as previously announced, will be updated with a new formulation for the 2023-2024 fall and winter seasons,” an FDA spokesperson said Thursday in an email.
Other federal agencies have followed the new terminology closely.
CDC vote on the new shots asked Americans only if they were open to getting the “new, updated COVID-19 vaccine.”
But the word “booster” is still on many other official sites, including the UK’s “autumn vaccine booster” campaign abroad and press releases in the United States from some states and local health departments.
“It’s going to be hard to start changing that terminology, but it’s no longer a booster. It’s now the current vaccine of the year,” Talbot said.