A late summer increase in COVID-19-related hospitalizations and the emergence of new coronavirus variants raises concerns about how best to counter infection and who should receive the newly-approved vaccines. Although data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that the recent surge of cases remains far beneath peak pandemic-era numbers, worries have circulated about what precautions might be necessary to protect public health.
Lisa M. Lee, a professor of public health at Virginia Tech, answered questions about factors for concern and the importance of vaccination. Lee is an epidemiologist and bioethicist who has worked in public health and ethics for 25 years, including 14 years with CDC.
Q: When will the new COVID vaccine be available and who should get it?
“The newest COVID vaccines were deemed safe and effective by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Sept. 11, 2023. On Sept. 12, CDC recommended the vaccinesfor all persons over six months of age. The new vaccines should be available in less than a week. The data showed clear benefits of vaccination in reducing serious illness, hospitalizations, and deaths. This is especially important for persons at high risk for severe COVID — young children, older adults, people with chronic conditions including obesity, and people with compromised immune systems. CDC recommends that everyone over six months of age get this year’s new COVID vaccine, as it is effective against the newer variants we are seeing in circulation this year. If you’ve recently had COVID or recently gotten one of the older COVID vaccines, check with your health care provider about the best timing for getting the updated shot.”
Q: Does coronavirus remain a major threat to public health?
“COVID-19 remains a risk this fall and winter season, especially for people with less robust immune systems—people 65