COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Missouri and across the nation, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But a vaccine is in the works to help fight the new variants powering the rise in cases and hospitalizations.
Dr. Laura Morris -- MU Health Care physician and co-chair of the vaccine committee -- said Missouri is seeing a late summer uptick in COVID-19 cases.
"The numbers feel like they're going up, don't freak out," Morris said. "Go ahead and wait a few weeks, get the new shot when it's available, as soon as possible, so you have your protection kick started for what might be just a late summer bump, but might be the beginning of a true fall rise."
She's recommending low-risk people wait to get vaccinated until the new, more effective vaccine becomes available this fall.
"Remember, it takes about two weeks to get immunity that's effective after getting a shot," Morris said. "So, getting a vaccine today does not mean you're protected more tomorrow. Timing is important."
The new vaccine will be monovalent and target the widely circulating XBB strains of the Coronavirus. These variants have been the leading cause of the rise in cases and are predicted to still be the dominant strains in the fall.
Morris said she's recommending people to wait for the new booster because it will offer better protection in the long run.
"It's going to be a much better match," Morris said. "In theory, that means that the antibodies that are formed will respond better and help you fight off this type of the virus whenever your body is exposed to it."
The new shot is expected to be out this fall, though no specific timeline is known. Dr. Ayaaz Habibullah with Boone Health said he expects it to be available around the same time as the flu shot.
"I tell most patients try to target the first of October as to when to get those vaccines," Habibullah said. "So, I'm thinking hopefully within the next six weeks."
Morris said this updated COVID-19 vaccine is similar to what occurs each year with the flu shot.
"It will be a new formulation, similar to what happens with the flu vaccine, where we study the type of virus that is infecting people and want to match the vaccine more closely," Morris said.
It isn't yet clear when the vaccine will be available in Missouri. ABC 17 reached out to local pharmacies and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, but all said they are still waiting on that information.
Moderna said in a news release earlier this month that it has completed a clinical trial for its updated COVID-19 vaccine and has submitted it to the FDA and other regulators. Pending regulation, they expect it to be ready for use in the fall globally.
While both doctors are recommending low-risk people to wait for the new vaccine, they said individuals at high-risk or traveling somewhere with high COVID-19 numbers to get the current vaccine now, then wait the appropriate amount of time to get the new booster later in the year.
"It really does take a little bit of thought on an individual case by case basis," Morris said. "But, across the board, the right answer, I think, is the newer version of the vaccine is more targeted, and it makes sense to get that."
In a statement, the Food and Drug Administration wrote, "The currently available bivalent COVID-19 vaccines appear less effective against currently circulating variants (e.g., XBB-lineage viruses) than against previous strains of virus. The totality of available evidence suggests that a monovalent XBB-lineage vaccine is warranted for the 2023–2024 update."
The FDA voted unanimously in June to recommend that vaccine manufacturers update COVID-19 vaccines for the 2023-2024 cycle to defend against a newer strain, known as XBB 1.5.
The guidance came after the FDA reported 95% of circulating virus variants in the country were of the XBB lineage at the beginning of the summer, with XBB.1.16 predicted to be the dominant variant this fall.
The FDA reports variants XBB 1.5 and XBB.1.16 appear very similar, with little to no difference in immune response.