Practice Alert

Vaccine update: The latest recommendations from ACIP

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Here are the latest recommendations on the hepatitis, pneumococcal, zoster, rabies, and dengue vaccines.



In a typical year, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has three 1.5- to 2-day meetings to make recommendations for the use of new and existing vaccines in the US population. However, 2021 was not a typical year. Last year, ACIP held 17 meetings for a total of 127 hours. Most of these were related to vaccines to prevent COVID-19. There are now 3 COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States: the 2-dose mRNA-based Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines and the single-dose adenovirus, vector-based Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine.

TABLE 11 includes the actions taken by the ACIP from late 2020 through 2021 related to COVID-19 vaccines. All of these recommendations except 1 occurred after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the product using an emergency use authorization (EUA). The exception is the recommendation for use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (BNT162b2) for those ages 16 years and older, which was approved under the normal process 8 months after widespread use under an EUA.

Actions taken by ACIP regarding COVID vaccines

Hepatitis B vaccine now for all nonimmune adults up through 59 years

Since the introduction of hepatitis B (HepB) vaccines in 1980, the incidence of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections in the United States has been reduced dramatically; there were an estimated 287,000 cases in 19852 and 19,200 in 2014.3 However, the incidence among adults has not declined in recent years and among someage groups has actually increased. Among those ages 40 to 49 years, the rate went from 1.9 per 100,000 in 20114 to 2.7 per 100,000 population in 2019.5 In those ages 50 to 59, there was an increase from 1.1 to 1.6 per 100,000 population over the same period of time.4,5

Recommendations for using HepB vaccine in adults have been based on risk that involves individual behavior, occupation, and medical conditions (TABLE 26). The presence of these risk factors is often unknown to medical professionals, who rarely ask about or document them. And patients can be reluctant to disclose them for fear of being stigmatized. The consequence has been a low rate of vaccination in at-risk adults.

Risks for hepatitis B infection

At its November 2021 meeting, ACIP accepted the advice of the Hepatitis Work Group to move to a universal adult recommendation through age 59.7 ACIP believed that the incidence of acute infection in those ages 60 and older was too low to merit a universal recommendation. The new recommendation states that all adults through age 59 years who are not immune to HBV through vaccination or prior infection should receive a HepB vaccine series, as should those 60 years and older with a risk factor (TABLE 26). If a patient’s immune status is unknown, ACIP recommends administering the vaccine, as there are no documented harmful effects of doing so in an individual with immunity.

Multiple HepB vaccine products are available for adults. Two are recombinant-based and require 3 doses: Engerix-B (GlaxoSmithKline) and Recombivax HB (Merck). One is recombinant based and requires only 2 doses: Heplisav-B (Dynavax Technologies). A new product recently approved by the FDA, ­PREHEVBRIO (VBI Vaccines), is another recombinant 3-dose option that the ACIP will consider early in 2022. HepB and HepA vaccines can also be co-administered with Twinrix (GlaxoSmithKline).

Pneumococcal vaccines: New PCV vaccines alter prescribing choices

The ACIP recommendations for pneumococcal vaccines in adults have been very confusing, involving 2 vaccines: PCV13 (Prevnar13, Pfizer) and PPSV23 (Pneumovax23, Merck). Both PCV13 and PPSV23 given in series were recommended for immunocompromised patients, but only PPSV23 was recommended for those with chronic medical conditions. For those 65 and older, PPSV23 was recommended for all individuals (including those with no chronic or immunocompromising condition), and PCV13 was recommended for those with immunocompromising conditions. Other adults in this older age group could receive PCV13 based on individual risk and shared clinical decision making.8

Continue to: This past year...


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