The New York Times reports that the Biden administration will begin a COVID-19 booster campaign in September.
The federal government has decided not to expand eligibility for second boosters of the existing vaccines for those under 50 because of the new shots on the way. New boosters are expected to offer better protection against the Omicron subvariants, including BA.5.
Currently, only those 50 and older and those with compromised immune systems over the age of 12 are eligible for booster doses of the current vaccines. Officials at the FDA last week discussed whether to open eligibility for the BA.5 subvariant, the strain driving up coronavirus cases across the country. So they put off vaccinations in order to boost immunity in September in preparation for winter.
Yesterday, Moderna announced a $1.74 million supply contract with the U.S. for 66 million doses of the new “bivalent vaccine,” which has been updated to contain original coronavirus and mRNA from BA.4 and BA.5 subvarieties. The contract includes options to purchase up to 234 million additional doses of the booster.
moderna’s mRNA platform allows us to rapidly develop mRNA-1273.222, a bivalent vaccine that specifically targets Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, which are the most prevalent variants of concern in the U.S. today, says Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel in a statement.
Likewise, Pfizer-BioNTech announced an agreement with the U.S. in late June for 105 million vaccine doses, which could include Omicron-adapted vaccines for adults. They were scheduled to deliver doses in late summer, continuing through the last quarter of 2022. The contract includes the ability to purchase up to 195 million additional doses.
In FDA advisory committee meetings this summer, vaccine companies said they would have doses of the updated shots available by mid-October, but Biden administration officials encouraged them to do so sooner.
Based on delivery projections from these companies, the Biden administration said it expects to launch the booster campaign in the middle of September, according to The New York Times. All adults are expected to have received the updated shot at that time, and children could receive the update as well.
A CDC report states that 83.5% of kids aged 5 and older are fully vaccinated with the initial vaccine series, and 71.5% have received at least one COVID-19 shot. So far, 48% of those aged 50 and older have received one booster dose, and 31% have received a second.
Coronavirus cases continue to hover around 130,000 new cases per day, according to data tracked by The New York Times. Out of COVID-19 patients, 44,000 have been hospitalized nationwide, and an additional 5,000 are in intensive care units. Each day, an average of 440 people die of COVID-19.