Potential to confuse micron-targeted COVID booster with conventional vaccine raises concern: Report

Health experts are reportedly concerned about possible vaccine mix-ups between the ommicron-specific booster shots and vials of conventional COVID-19 vaccines intended only to protect against the original coronavirus strain.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the issue was raised at both a meeting of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a meeting of the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup.

In a letter addressed to the governors of California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington State, Chairman Dr. Arthur Reingold that evidence supports the safety of COVID vaccines.

“However, the working group remains concerned about the potential for errors in the administration of the different COVID-19 vaccines, as formulations for different age groups are similar,” Reingold said. “In order to minimize the frequency of such errors, which must be reported to VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System), it is imperative that clear COVID-19 vaccination guidelines are disseminated to all vaccine providers. The working group reiterates the importance of reporting to VAERS suspected adverse reactions after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, either as part of an initial series or as a booster dose and ongoing national safety oversight efforts.”

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This August 2022 photo, provided by Pfizer, shows vials of the company’s updated COVID-19 vaccine during production in Kalamazoo, Michigan. There are new booster shots and social distancing guidelines are simple, but COVID-19 infections are not going away (Pfizer via AP, File/AP Newsroom)

VAERS is a national vaccine safety monitoring program that helps detect unusual or unexpected adverse drug reaction reporting patterns for vaccines.

According to the Times, the potential for confusion stems from the fact that the vial cap color is identical, as are the vials containing the same amount of vaccine.

Citing the CDC, the paper said that Pfizer injections for both ommicron-specific boosters and conventional vaccines are gray and that the vial cap for both Moderna vaccines is dark blue.

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dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, testifying before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tu (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, Pool/AP Newsroom)

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday the agency is working to hand out photos of the caps and train vaccine administrators to “minimize confusion.”

In addition, the group pushed for vaccination against COVID-19 for all eligible, agreeing with the recommendations of the Federal Advisory Commission on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for a single booster dose of an updated bivalent BA.4/BA.5 COVID-19 vaccine. .

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It also highlighted remaining concerns regarding the limited supply and equitable distribution of bivalent vaccines.

These boosters contain half of the original vaccine, which has been in use since December 2020, and half of protection against omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5.

COVID booster syringes

Spraying COVID-19 Vaccines, Waterford, Mich., Apr. 8, 2022. (REUTERS/Emily Elconin/File Photo/Reuters Photos)

The new shots made by Pfizer are authorized for anyone 12 years and older and the Moderna version is for adults.

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This is the first update of COVID vaccines ever approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.