COVID prospects for fall 2023

Published August 28, 2023

Key takeaways:

  • COVID cases are on the upswing in the US and some other countries.
  • We should continue monitoring new variants for future threats.
  • We recommend new COVID boosters in the fall for people who have not had a recent infection and have not been vaccinated recently, and who are in at-risk groups (over 65 with co-morbidities.)

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity

In recent weeks, we have received many inquiries about the status of COVID, including from several governments. This interest is driven by wastewater surveillance data, hospitalization data, and case reporting that suggests that COVID cases are on the upswing in the US, but also in some other countries where reporting continues. Now, it’s hard to make sense of the numbers in terms of population levels because there’s been a big pullback from active surveillance and reporting in many countries.

But from what we know, there is an increase in cases – so far, there has not been a noticeable increase. There’s also an increase in hospitalizations, but there has not been a notable increase in the data in terms of reported deaths due to COVID, which is good news. Now, concern about COVID as we head into the fall and winter is also enhanced by the tracking and reporting of some new variants, particularly BA.2.86, which has a number of new mutations.

So this has raised concern among some that it could have higher severity. However, we don’t actually have any direct data on that. We don’t see anything yet, even though it’s early days. So how do we handle this situation? I think given that population levels of immunity are very high because of repeated Omicron infections and because of vaccination, there’s no reason yet to be particularly concerned. But it is a good example, as new variants emerge and case numbers start to go back up, of how keeping track of what’s happening to the epidemic is super important, so we should all be vigilant. And as we head into the fall, those people who have not had a recent infection and have not been vaccinated recently who are in at-risk groups, over 65 with co-morbidities, should really consider getting the new boosters that are coming in the fall.

So, we’re in that phase of the COVID epidemic where we have to all manage our protection or immunity for the disease, keep track of it, and not just forget about COVID, because it could be the case that a new variant comes along and you’ll really want to have as much protection as possible. So that’s our interpretation in a very interim stage of what’s happening to COVID right now.

Be vigilant, get your booster if it’s appropriate, and we’ll see where the fall and winter take us.