Updated COVID-19 boosters likely available next month as ‘twindemic’ fears emerge
SALT LAKE CITY — Concerns about a potential surge in COVID-19 and the flu at the same time this fall are emerging again.
Each of the last two years, warnings about a so-called “twindemic” did not materialize, but this year could be different.
“As we relax our guard, I think that we’re going to get more colds and flu,” said Dr. Sankar Swaminathan, chief of the division of infectious diseases at University of Utah Health.
Swaminathan said the absence of a serious flu season the last two years means that we have not been naturally boosted through exposure. Kids who have not had the flu or a vaccine have gone without protection for a couple of years.
“So there’s probably more susceptibility out there to flu,” Swaminathan said.
Australia is experiencing its worst flu season in five years.
“If there is a resurgence in Australia, that might mean that we could have a resurgence here,” he said.
If COVID and the flu rise at the same time, that could be problematic for the healthcare system.
“It’s just going to strain the system,” Swaminathan said. “Hopefully it won’t be bad, but I think we have to be prepared for that. And one way to be prepared, as usual, is to get vaccinated against the flu.”
He gets that shot as soon as it is available, but he knows that some people like to get their flu vaccine closer to the winter peak.
As for COVID, the CDC expects emergency use authorization for boosters targeting the two most prevalent omicron subvariants sometime soon.
The omicron BA.5 subvariant now accounts for nearly 90% of new COVID cases.
Case counts dropped this week in Utah, but there were still 13 COVID-related deaths.
Pfizer and Moderna have updated their vaccines to combat a potential surge this fall as children head back to school and people gather indoors more.
“The idea is that we are going to have a booster that will not only protect against hospitalization and infection like before, but additionally provide more protection against infection by these latest variants,” Swaminathan said.
The vaccine manufacturers are expected to apply for authorization soon. The COVID boosters should be available for everyone 12 and up sometime in the next few weeks, and for children 5 to 11 shortly after that. The flu vaccine should also be widely available in the next couple of months.
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