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FDA approves new COVID vaccine

Picture of a vial of a COVID-19 vaccine
Photo courtesy / Canva
Along with a new COVID vaccine, new vaccines to fight influenza and RSV are on the way.

MSU Professor of Medicine says new vaccine, developed with old technology, may attract people who avoided original vaccines.

New COVID-19 variants are beginning to appear in Michigan. Health officials say testing rates have declined, and confirmed cases and hospitalizations are up.

Dr. Peter Gulick, infectious disease specialist and associate professor of Medicine at Michigan State University, College of Osteopathic Medicine, said while cases of COVID are on the rise in Michigan, the numbers remain much lower than a year ago. By now, he said, most Americans have been vaccinated, infected, or exposed to the virus. “We’ve developed an immunity to the virus in some respects, and so I think that’s why we’re going to still see infections,” Dr. Gulick explained, “but the seriousness of infections may not quite be as bad as what we saw with the Delta strain and the earlier strains unless there’s some new mutation that occurs that just really causes a lot of change or disruption.”

That’s the good news. The bad news, Dr. Gulick said, is there are still people who are at a high risk for complications: the immunocompromised, those who are older than 65, and people with obesity, hypertension, or diabetes. He said those people should still take precautions, and maybe even begin masking again.

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved a new round of COVID boosters, which should be available in upcoming days.

Dr. Gulick said he hopes people who didn't get COVID shots because they were afraid of the MRNA technology used to make them will get the new product. That’s because it’s being made with older technology. “That’s where they take the antigen from the virus and they connect it with an adjuvant which stimulates the immune system,” Dr. Gulick said. “It’s the way traditional vaccines have always been made, and it is effective. The vaccine is effective against the newer strains, so you have your options now. There’s no excuse for not getting a vaccine.”

There are no recommendations about the new vaccine yet for younger, vaccinated individuals.

Dr. Gulick still suggests that people experiencing COVID symptoms get tested. Current drugs remain helpful against the worst symptoms. “Paxlovid and Remdesivir are still effective against all the variants, and Molnupirivir as well, that’s the third drug, from Merck,” Dr. Gulick said. “So, you still have the opportunity to take those drugs should you get infected and you’re at a high risk for progressing to a serious disease.”

COVID isn’t the only vaccine to think about. Dr. Gulick recommended getting a flu shot this month or next so it will last through the seasons when flu is most active.

Another vaccine to consider fights respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. Long used in children, two companies will now provide an RSV vaccine for older adults. The CDC has not yet issued guidelines for this new vaccine. Dr. Gulick said anyone who wants all three can get the new COVID vaccine and the flu shot at the same time. Then, they should wait a week or two for the RSV vaccination.

And of course, when in doubt, it’s always advisable to discuss the options with your physician.

Scott Pohl is a general assignment news reporter and produces news features and interviews. He is also an alternate local host on NPR's "Morning Edition."
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