The five biggest changes in the 2023 adult vaccine schedules


This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Hello. I’m Dr Sandra Fryhofer. Welcome to Medicine Matters. The topic is highlights from ACIP’s new adult schedule for 2023, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, and why this new schedule may be a collector’s item.

It’s a new year, which means a new ACIP adult immunization schedule – a valuable resource collating ACIP’s most up-to-date vaccination recommendations.

Here are this year’s five most important changes:

  • COVID vaccines now front and center
  • New emphasis on polio vaccination
  • Inclusion of some nonvaccine products (such as monoclonal antibody products)
  • Pharmacists group has approved the schedule for the first time
  • New shared clinical decision-making option for pneumococcal vaccines

The schedule’s organization remains the same. It still has four sections:

  • Table 1: vaccinations by age
  • Table 2: vaccinations by medical condition and other indications
  • The Notes section (alphabetically ordered by vaccine type)
  • Appendix listing of vaccine-specific contraindications and precautions

But what’s unique this year is that some of the abbreviations have historical implications. The first change is no big surprise in light of what we’ve gone through in the past few years. COVID vaccines are listed first on the cover page by brand name for those authorized and by company name for those still under US emergency use authorization. They’re also listed first on the graphics and in the notes.

COVID and mRNA and protein-based vaccines have now been assigned official abbreviations based on vaccine platform and valency.

  • 1vCOV-mRNA: Comirnaty/Pfizer-BioNTech and Spikevax Moderna COVID-19 vaccines
  • 2vCOV-mRNA: Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna bivalent COVID-19 vaccines
  • 1vCOV-aPS: Novavax COVID-19 vaccine

Also remarkable is the absence of COVID viral vector vaccines on the list. However, the viral vector COVID vaccine (which has been available but is not preferred) does have a CDC website link in the Notes section.

A sad but necessary inclusion was triggered by recent polio cases in New York. Polio was believed to be eradicated, and we thought adults no longer needed to be vaccinated against polio. In the new schedule, the polio vaccine is listed on the cover page but is not included in the tables. Current polio vaccination recommendations are now in the Notes section.

Also of historical significance and something that may set a precedent is the inclusion of nonvaccine products. The value of COVID preexposure prophylaxis with products including monoclonal antibodies (such as Evusheld) for people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised is mentioned in the Notes section.

For the first time ever, the schedule has been approved by the American Pharmacists Association, which validates pharmacists as established partners in vaccine administration.

Color-code key

One aspect of the schedule that has not changed is the color-code key:

  • Yellow: Recommended if the patient meets the age requirement
  • Purple: Indicated for those with additional risk factors or another indication
  • Blue: Recommended based on shared clinical decision-making
  • Orange: Precaution
  • Red: Contraindicated or not recommended; the vaccine should not be administered. Overlays on the red more precisely clarify whether a vaccine is really contraindicated or just not recommended. An asterisk on red means vaccinate after pregnancy if indicated.
  • Gray: No recommendation or not applicable


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