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CDC recommends Americans 65 and over get additional COVID-19 vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that Americans ages 65 and older get a second dose of this season’s COVID-19 vaccine. Under this new guidance, an additional dose of the vaccine can be given at least four months after the previous shot. 

“Most COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations last year were among people 65 years and older,” CDC Director Dr. Mandy Cohen said in a statement. “An additional vaccine dose can provide added protection that may have decreased over time for those at highest risk.”

A CDC report published in February said that the 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine is about 54 percent effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19, compared with those who had not received the latest vaccine. The CDC estimates that only 22 percent of adults in the US have gotten a COVID-19 booster this season. A little over 40 percent of Americans ages 65 and over have gotten the 2023-2024 shot.

The CDC’s independent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 11-1 with one abstention on the new recommendations. A subgroup of advisers suggested softer language in the recommendation that would have suggested that older adults “may” get a second dose of the vaccine instead of “should.” These committee members felt that this language shift would have given clinicians added flexibility and also takes growing vaccine hesitancy into account. 

According to The Washington Post, Camille Kotton of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston pushed for stronger language so that the recommendations would be more clear to patients. Kotton said that using the word “may” is “too soft, especially for the most vulnerable,” and that many Americans remain unaware that they should be getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

CDC data shows that older adults have been the most vulnerable to COVID-19’s most severe effects. Hospitalizations related to the virus have been consistently higher in this age group than others, with about two-thirds of COVID-19 hospitalizations occurring in patients over 65. Senior citizens also make up the largest proportion of those who have died in the hospital from COVID-19 and have the highest numbers to fatalities after being discharged from the hospital. 

COVID-19 remains a threat. The CDC reports that there were roughly 20,000 new hospital admissions and 2,000 COVID-19 deaths per week as of February 17. Even when reported cases were at their lowest in summer 2023, about 500 Americans were still losing their lives to COVID-19 every week. 

Updates vaccines are available at most pharmacies and at doctors offices. 

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