Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

For many people who have already had COVID, a reinfection is often milder than an earlier case. But those 65 and older, pregnant or immunocompromised remain at higher risk of serious complications from COVID.

Health officials have told Americans to expect a yearly update to COVID vaccines, just like annual flu shots are updated to protect against the latest flu strains.

“Our top recommendation for protecting yourself and your loved ones from respiratory illness is to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Mandy Cohen, director of the CDC, said in a press release. “Make a plan now for you and your family to get both updated flu and COVID vaccines this fall, ahead of the respiratory virus season.”

But many Americans are not following the CDC’s advice. Only about 22% of U.S. adults and 14% of children were up to date in their COVID shots, according to the CDC.

It’s even lower in Georgia with only about 8% of adults and less than 2% of children up to date, according to CDC.

While the general recommendation is for everyone six months and older to get an updated COVID shot, doctors and public health experts say it is especially important for older adults and others people at high risk for severe illness.

Age remains the strongest risk factor for severe COVID outcomes, with risk of severe outcomes increasing markedly with increasing age, according to CDC researchers. Compared to adults between 18 and 29, the risk of death from COVID is 25 times higher in those between the ages of 50 and 64 years, 60 times higher in those ages 65 and 74 years. It is 340 times higher in those ages 85 and older.

The latest recommendations come at a time when cases are growing or likely growing in 39 states including Georgia, according to the CDC, signaling that a summer bump is underway. The CDC no longer tracks COVID case numbers but estimates the trend of the virus spread based on emergency room visits.

Levels of virus found in wastewater samples, often an early signal of rising COVID cases, have also been rising in Georgia according to CDC surveillance. But it’s not clear if that means cases will continue to surge.

And while the rise is not too surprising now that people are traveling and gathering indoors where it’s cooler, health experts and doctors expect this season’s illnesses to be milder than some past versions of the virus. But the latest iterations of the ever-evolving coronavirus seem to be more contagious.

Symptoms from the latest variants circulating are familiar and include sore throat, runny nose, coughing, head and body aches, fever, fatigue, and in more severe cases, shortness of breath.

Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration — following the guidance of its own panel of expert advisers — told vaccine manufacturers to target the JN.1 (omicron) version of the virus. But a week later, the FDA told manufacturers that if they could still switch, a better target might be an even newer variant called KP.2.

Data reporter Stephanie Lamm and The Associated Press contributed to this story

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