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Infectious disease specialist recommends getting COVID shot once available

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Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist, encourages Americans to prepare themselves for a potential new COVID booster shot, after a U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel voted Tuesday to recommend modifying the COVID vaccine. The updated shot is aimed at specifically targeting the highly contagious Omicron virus variant and could be available this fall.

"I think we need to remember that the virus continues to mutate," Gounder told "CBS Mornings" on Thursday. "We need to try to keep up with the virus and even if you have gotten two boosters — so four doses — I would still strongly recommend getting the updated booster to better match the virus that is currently circulating."

The Omicron variant, Gounder said, emerged last fall and has continued to mutate, with it eventually becoming the country's most dominant strain. The updated booster shot is aimed at addressing the variant's mutations ahead of an anticipated winter surge of cases, she said.

"People are going to be back indoors, kids back in the classroom, people are very much going to be back at work in person definitely by then and these Omicron sub-variants, each of them has caused an increase every time they've emerged," she said.

She predicts in the short term that experts will recommend yearly booster vaccinations for elderly and immunocompromised people, as well as shots recommended for the general population when "there's a big variant switch." The infectious disease specialist added though that scientists "don't know what the tempo is going to be with the variant."

"I think the holy grail would be a universal coronavirus vaccine that would cover all variants," she said. "The problem is we're still years away from that. We don't have an operation warp speed, you know, with lots of funding and resources to move that along."

Gounder, who is editor-at-large at the Kaiser Family Foundation Health News, recommends those scheduled to receive the already-existing booster COVID vaccine to keep their appointments despite the potential new booster vaccine on the horizon.

"These updated vaccines won't be out until October at the earliest and we don't know what the supply is going to be in October," she said. "So i t's going to be a little while still yet before you can get that updated booster."

She also warned people about monkeypox — a rare but potentially deadly viral infection in the same family of viruses as smallpox that's recently been spreading around the world. While Gounder says the disease is actively spreading among "men who have sex with men," she noted that "it's only a matter of time before this spreads in the rest of the population."

The disease is passed on through direct contact with people who are infected with active lesions. A vaccine is currently being released to the public from the Strategic National Stockpile, Gounder said.

"We're really trying to nip this in the bud," she said.

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