EG.5. — also referred to as Eris — has spread quickly on a global scale, including in the U.S. Eris descends from XBB.1.9.2, one of the lineages from the Omicron variant. Another variant, BA.2.86 (Pirola), is not yet as widespread but has gained attention due to its large number of mutations.
“Compared to the bivalent booster, last year’s formulation, the updated shots improve protection by creating an immune response in our bodies against new variants, such as Eris, among others,” says Dr. Sobieszczyk.
The bivalent booster will no longer be available in the U.S. since it targeted the BA.4 and BA.5 lineages of the Omicron variant and the original coronavirus strains, which are no longer circulating.
Similar to the yearly flu vaccine, the FDA is anticipating that they will need to meet on an annual basis to understand how COVID-19 is evolving, review data on circulating strains, and advise manufacturers on which strains should be selected for the vaccine each year.
“Updating the vaccine composition might be a continuous process given that COVID-19 is mutating a lot,” says Dr. Sobieszczyk. “Getting vaccinated with an updated shot will not only benefit the individual but also the community around them. While the vaccine does not eliminate the risk of getting COVID-19, it makes the virus mild, shortens the duration of infection, lowers the risk of transmitting it to others, and protects those who are more vulnerable from severe disease.”