Biden admin plans to roll out updated Covid booster shots in September

The Biden administration plans to offer updated Covid booster shots in September, an administration official confirmed to NBC News on Friday.

The new vaccines are being reformulated to be more effective against the now dominant and extremely contagious Omicron subvariant BA.5 and also against the BA.4 subvariant.

Both Pfizer and Moderna say they will have the upgraded boosters ready by the fall, and the federal government has bought millions of doses to allocate to the public, but it’s not enough to vaccinate every American.

News of the fall launch of updated boosters was first reported by The New York Times.

A nurse administers a COVID-19 booster shot
A nurse administers a Covid booster shot on April 1, 2022 at Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital in Hines, Illinois.Scott Olson/Getty Images file

BA.4 and BA.5 – thought to be the most contagious forms of the virus so far – accounted for more than 90% of all new Covid cases in the United States in the week ended July 23, according to the report Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health officials have scrambled to address the aggressive subvariants, with the US Food and Drug Administration recommending last month that vaccine manufacturers update their shots to target BA.4 and BA.5.

On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense announced an agreement to purchase 66 million doses of Moderna’s bivalent Covid vaccine booster.

The federal government also recently purchased 105 million bivalent Covid vaccine booster doses from Pfizer-BioNTech for potential use later this year.

Once these bivalent vaccine boosters are approved by the FDA and CDC, first shipments from both manufacturers will begin arriving in early fall, Health and Human Services said in a release.

Together, Moderna and Pfizer will provide 171 million booster doses of bivalent vaccines for the fall and beyond if approved and recommended — but that’s not enough for every American to get a dose, according to the press release.

Health and Human Services said both the Moderna and Pfizer agreements include options to provide 300 million doses from each company for a total of 600 million doses, “but these options can only be exercised with additional congressional funding.”

The department emphasized in the press release that existing Covid vaccines “remain the primary tool in preventing serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths.” Given the threat posed by the BA.5 subvariant, it’s important that Americans “stay current with their Covid-19 vaccinations.”

“We must remain vigilant in our fight against COVID-19 and continue to expand Americans’ access to the best vaccines and treatments,” said Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services, in the press release. “As we look ahead to fall and winter, that’s exactly what we’re doing — making sure Americans have the tools they need to stay safe and move our nation forward.”

Currently, only Americans over the age of 50 or those over the age of 12 with certain immune deficiencies are eligible for a second booster shot. Of those over 50 who received their first booster shot, only about 30% received their second, according to CDC data.

Covid hospitalizations have risen slightly in the United States as subvariants continue to account for a larger proportion of new cases.

Berkeley Lovelace Jr. and Erica Edwards contributed. Biden admin plans to roll out updated Covid booster shots in September

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