CDC Experts Recommend Seniors Get Another COVID Shot

By   |  February 29, 2024

By Robin Foster HealthDay Reporter  |  Copyright © 2024 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

THURSDAY, Feb. 29, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Even if they got a COVID booster last fall, American seniors should still get a second shot this spring to best protect themselves, U.S. health officials recommended Wednesday.

The latest guidance, voted on by a vaccine advisory panel and endorsed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, states that a second booster is fine as long as at least four months have passed since your last COVID shot.

"Today’s recommendation allows older adults to receive an additional dose of this season’s COVID-19 vaccine to provide added protection," CDC Director Dr. Mandy Cohen said in an agency statement announcing the new recommendation. "Most COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations last year were among people 65 years and older. An additional vaccine dose can provide added protection that may have decreased over time for those at highest risk."

The CDC advisory panel’s decision followed a debate on whether the wording in the guidance should say older people “may” or "should" get the shots, in an acknowledgement of the public’s growing fatigue with anything related to COVID-19, the Associated Press reported. Some panel members said the “should” recommendation more clearly encourages doctors and pharmacists to offer the shots.

“I was impressed with data supporting the need for an additional dose of vaccine for those 65 years and older,” panel member Dr. Camille Kotton, a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, told the New York Times.

“Given the risk of severe, even life-threatening, disease, I would encourage those who are moderately to severely immunocompromised to take the opportunity for another dose,” she added.

The CDC stressed that point in its statement.

"Data continues to show the importance of vaccination to protect those most at risk for severe outcomes of COVID-19," the CDC said. "An additional dose of the updated COVID-19 vaccine may restore protection that has waned since a fall vaccine dose, providing increased protection to adults ages 65 years and older."

So far, this season's COVID booster has proved 54% effective against infection with the predominant COVID variant, known as JN.1.

Many older adults are still protected by the fall shot, which built on the immunity of earlier vaccinations and/or infection, doctors say. Meanwhile, preliminary studies so far have shown no substantial waning in vaccine effectiveness over six months, the AP reported.

Still, immunity fades faster in seniors than in other adults, the AP reported.

Not only that, but COVID is still a serious disease: There are still more than 20,000 hospitalizations and more than 2,000 deaths each week due to the coronavirus, according to the CDC. And people 65 and older have the highest hospitalization and death rates, the data shows.

"Adults 65 years and older are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, with more than half of COVID-19 hospitalizations during October 2023 to December 2023 occurring in this age group," the CDC noted, adding that people who are immunocompromised are already eligible for additional doses of COVID vaccines.

More information

Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more on COVID vaccines.

SOURCE: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news release, Feb. 28, 2024; Associated Press; New York Times