Currently spreading COVID-19 variants such as EG.5, or Eris, do not represent a major shift in COVID variants, and updated vaccines in September will offer protection, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.
“Right now, what we’re seeing with the changes in the viruses, they’re still susceptible to our vaccine, they’re still susceptible to our medicines, they’re still picked up by the tests,” Dr. Mandy Cohen said in an interview on former Biden administration adviser Andy Slavitt’s “In the Bubble” podcast. “We’re seeing small changes that are what I would call subtypes of what we’ve seen before.”
Updated vaccines should be available by mid- to late September, she said.
COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers have created new versions of their vaccine, which were updated to target the so-called XBB.1.5 subvariant that was dominant earlier this year, in order to more closely resemble the circulating virus.
“We anticipate that they are going to be available for most folks by the third or fourth week of September,” Cohen said. The vaccines still need to be authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the CDC needs to make its recommendations, she said.
“We are likely to see this as a recommendation as an annual COVID shot just like we have an annual flu shot,” she said.
Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax have all said they expect to have supplies of the updated vaccine ready for the rollout this autumn.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization classified the EG.5 coronavirus strain, circulating in the United States and China, as a “variant of interest” but said it did not seem to pose more of a threat to public health than other variants. Eris is the fasting-growing COVID-19 subvariant in the U.S., estimated to be responsible for around 17% of current COVID cases, according to the CDC.