Older People Should Get Another COVID Booster Before Summer

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Feb. 29, 2024 – People ages 65 and older should get a COVID-19 booster vaccination 4 months after their last one, the CDC advised Wednesday.

The move endorses a recent recommendation from the agency’s advisory committee that older adults should get the extra shots.

“Data continues to show the importance of vaccination to protect those most at risk for severe outcomes of COVID-19,” a CDC news release stated. “An additional dose of the updated COVID-19 vaccine may restore protection that has waned since a fall vaccine dose, providing increased protection to adults ages 65 years and older.”

People in that age group accounted for more than half of COVID hospitalizations in the last quarter of 2023. Seniors remain among the most vulnerable to severe cases of the illness, while younger people are broadly forgoing the shots.

As of mid-February, 22% of U.S. adults had received the updated vaccine that became available this past fall. Public health officials have expressed disappointment in the low uptake. Older people have been more likely to get the shots, with 43% of people ages 75 and older getting the latest jab.

“Today’s recommendation allows older adults to receive an additional dose of this season’s COVID-19 vaccine to provide added protection,” CDC Director Mandy Cohen, MD, MPH, said in the news release. “Most COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations last year were among people 65 years and older. An additional vaccine dose can provide added protection that may have decreased over time for those at highest risk.”

COVID metrics have been trending downward this past week, with about 8% of tests reporting positive and about 19,000 new weekly hospital admissions.

Hospitalizations due to COVID have dropped from 2.5 million in 2021 to 900,000 in 2023. There have been 6.8 million hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic, and nearly 1.2 million people have died. During most of 2023, people ages 65 and older who were hospitalized with COVID-19 were the most likely among people hospitalized with the illness to die. A recent CDC pandemic update said 88% of people who died in the hospital of COVID-19 during the first 7 months of 2023 were age 65 or older.

This latest recommendation is intended to restore protection in older people in anticipation of a repeat of past summertime COVID surges.