The Independent's journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission.

Updated Covid vaccines are nearly ready as alarm grows over new variant’s rapid spread

The new shot will be rolled out in the third or fourth week of September, according to Reuters

Andrea Blanco
Wednesday 06 September 2023 21:56 BST
COVID cases on the rise as new subvariant ‘Eris’ emerges

Updated Covid vaccines are expected to become available in the US this month as alarm grows over a new variant dubbed Eris.

Healthcare providers are grappling with a rise in hospitalisations stemming from Covid infections. Eris or EG.5.1, a subvariant of Omicron that originally emerged in late 2021, now accounts for around 22per cent of new COVID cases, according to the CDC.

Symptoms of the new variant include a runny nose, headache, fatigue, sneezing and a sore throat. In the week of 13 to 19 August, the latest period that data is available for, hospitalisations spiked by more than 18per cent, while deaths rose 17per cent compared to the previous week.

It comes as providers and pharmacies prepare to roll out an updated vaccine designed to combat Omicron — but experts are not very optimistic that the greater majority of Americans will opt to be vaccinated.

“Public health officials, if they want to see a majority of adults get these annual vaccines, they’re going to have to make the case to the American public that Covid isn’t over and it still poses a risk to them,” Kaiser Family Foundation Director of Survey Methodology Ashley Kirzinger told Reuters last month.

Fewer than 50 million people in the US got the shot last fall, compared to 250 million, or 73 per cent of the country’s population, when the vaccine was first made available in 2021, according to the agency.

Michael Yee, an analyst with the investing group Jefferies, also pointed out that vaccine manufacturers have been announcing they may need to cut jobs due to the low demand seen last year and the expectations for the upcoming vaccine.

“Take a look at what happened last winter. It was 50 million in the US, and it seems likely to be lower than that, given that there’s less concern about Covid this year than last year,” Mr Yee told Reuters.

Although the Eris variant appears to be spreading quickly, experts don’t believe it poses a greater risk than previous variants.

“It’s a concern that it’s increasing, but it doesn’t look like something that’s vastly different from what’s already been circulating in the US for the past three to four months,” Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health professor Andrew Pekosz told The New York Times. “So I think that’s what tempers my concern about this variant, at this point in time.”

More than one million Americans have died of Covid since the pandemic started.

The CDC recommends keeping up to date with Covid vaccines and booster shots as a yearly measure to go along with flu immunisation. The elderly and immunocompromised are especially encouraged to get the shot in order to lessen their chances of developing more severe symptoms.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in