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US offers updated COVID booster shots in September

July 31, 2022 – The Biden administration plans to launch a COVID-19 booster campaign with reformulated vaccines in September, it said The New York Times.

With the new shots on the way, federal officials have decided not to expand eligibility for second boosters of the existing vaccines for those under 50 this summer. The new boosters are said to offer better protection against the Omicron subvariants, including BA.5.

Currently, only adults over 50 and people over 12 with immunodeficiency are eligible for a second booster dose of current vaccines. FDA officials debated last week whether to open approval now as the BA.5 subvariant is increasing the number of coronavirus cases across the country. However, they decided to wait to boost immunity in September to protect against a possible winter surge.

On Friday, Moderna announced a new $1.74 supply deal with the US for an initial 66 million doses of the new “bivalent” vaccine, which contains the original coronavirus strain and mRNA of subvariants BA.4 and BA.5. The contract includes options to purchase up to 234 million additional doses of the booster.

“Moderna’s mRNA platform will enable us to rapidly develop mRNA-1273.222, a bivalent vaccine specifically targeting the omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, the most prevalent variants of concern in the United States today,” Stephane Bancel, CEO of Moderna, said the statement.

In late June, Pfizer-BioNTech also announced a $3.2 billion agreement with the United States for 105 million vaccine doses, which had the option to include Omicron-adapted adult vaccines. The cans should be delivered as early as late summer and into the last quarter of 2022. The contract includes an option to purchase up to 195 million additional doses.

During FDA advisory committee meetings this summer, vaccine companies said they hoped to have doses of the updated shots available by mid-October, but Biden administration officials encouraged them to make the new boosters available sooner.

Based on the companies’ supply projections, the Biden administration said it expects to launch the booster campaign in mid-September. The New York Times reported. All adults are expected to be eligible for the updated shots by this time, and children could also be eligible.

About 83.5% of people 5 years and older have received at least one COVID-19 vaccination, and 71.5% are considered fully vaccinated with the first vaccination series, according to the latest CDC data. About 48% have received a booster shot to date, and 31% of those over 50 have received a second booster shot to date.

The daily average of coronavirus cases remains at around 130,000 new cases per day, according to the data tracker The New York Times. About 44,000 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized across the country and nearly 5,000 patients are in intensive care units. Around 440 COVID-19 deaths are reported every day.

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