The Biden administration is pushing updated coronavirus booster shots that target the Omicron variants as a way to blunt the expected surges in the winter when most people will stay indoors.
"This week marks an important shift in our fight against the virus," White House Covid-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha said as the shots rolled out last week. "It marks our ability to make Covid vaccines a more routine part of our lives as we continue to drive down serious illness and deaths and protect Americans heading into the fall and winter."
The shots target Omicron sub variants BA.4 and BA.5, which are responsible for virtually all new infections in the US. BA.5 has plateaued in the US, maintaining a rate of about 88 per cent of coronavirus cases over the past month. It’s believed to be the most transmissible strain yet.
"As 99 per cent of circulating viruses in the United States are BA.5 or BA.4, updating our Covid-19 vaccines to match the circulating variants helps us to better be protected against these variants and future variants that might be closely related to Omicron," Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), told the press.
Meanwhile, the majority of the population should still be wearing a mask while inside public spaces or considering the measure based on their risk for severe Covid-19, the CDC warned in a bulletin.
Nearly 53 per cent of the population lives in an area with a medium or high Covid-19 community level, according to CDC data. According to the agency, people living in those areas should consider taking additional mitigation measures to protect themselves and others, like masking. The percentage has been on the decline for weeks as coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalization fall, the CDC reported.