CDC recommends seniors get another Covid-19 shot

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that individuals aged 65 and older receive an additional dose of the current Covid-19 vaccine. The decision follows a vote by the agency’s independent vaccine advisers, with CDC Director Dr. Mandy Cohen endorsing the recommendation. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 11 in favor and one against, with one member abstaining from the decision.

Under the new guidance, individuals in the 65 and older age group are eligible to receive an extra dose of any updated Covid-19 vaccine at least four months after their previous vaccination. While the current Covid-19 vaccine, updated last fall, is deemed highly effective, early estimates from CDC studies indicate a potential decline in protection over time, particularly among older adults whose immune responses may not be as robust.

The initial proposal suggested the use of the term “may,” but the committee opted for “should” to underscore the importance of Covid-19 vaccination.

Despite approximately 98% of the US population having some level of immunity to Covid-19 through infection, vaccination, or both, this immunity provides only partial protection against infection or severe illness, according to CDC epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Link-Gelles. She emphasized the necessity of vaccination, especially for high-risk individuals, as the protection conferred by past infection or vaccination diminishes over time.

Throughout the pandemic, older adults have borne the brunt of severe Covid-19 outcomes, with Covid-related hospitalizations and deaths disproportionately affecting this demographic. Data presented to the committee indicates that a significant percentage of older adults hospitalized with Covid had not received any vaccination against the virus.

While Covid-19 vaccination is recommended for all individuals aged 6 months and older, vaccination rates remain suboptimal, particularly among adults and children. Despite evidence demonstrating the vaccine’s efficacy in preventing severe disease and symptomatic infection, vaccination rates have not reached desired levels.

Public confidence in Covid-19 vaccines has declined, with fewer individuals perceiving them as safe and important compared to previous months. Despite evolving perceptions of disease risk, Covid-19 continues to pose a significant threat, particularly to vulnerable populations such as older adults and those with underlying health conditions.

CDC representatives highlighted ongoing Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths, underscoring the persistent threat posed by the virus. However, part of the challenge lies in ensuring that healthcare providers actively recommend Covid-19 vaccination to their patients, with data indicating a decline in such recommendations compared to previous years.

Advisory committee member Dr. Camille Kotton emphasized the urgency of clear communication regarding vaccine recommendations, particularly for high-risk populations, to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on vulnerable individuals.