COVID update: Updated boosters could be available in 3 weeks, White House predicts

WASHINGTON– Newly updated COVID-19 boosters tailored to target a dominant strain of the virus will be available within the next three weeks or so, assuming the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention work through their review processes. permission as expected.

That was the prediction of White House COVID coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha on Tuesday at an event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

In late June, the FDA ordered Moderna and Pfizer to manufacture vaccines for the coming winter that targeted the more contagious BA.5 omicron subvariant, as well as the original COVID strain. This work is ongoing, and the next step is for the FDA and CDC to review the companies’ data, once they receive it.

Neither the FDA nor the CDC have announced a timeline.

The rollout was scheduled for September, but Jha’s estimate on Tuesday was the most accurate yet.

“We will learn more about this in the coming weeks and these vaccines will be available in early to mid-September,” he said, again adding the caveat that the FDA and CDC must act before anything can be official.

“But the big picture, at the end of the day, is that these are substantial improvements in our vaccines,” Jha said. “And those vaccines are coming very, very soon.”

Jha also said he hopes there will eventually be enough vaccines that any adult wanting a new booster can get one, despite funding wrangles that have forced the federal government to only order enough for the most vulnerable Americans.

“We’re still working to try to get more resources from other places. I’d like to get to a point where every adult in America who wants a vaccine can get one. Hopefully we’ll be there. We’re not all quite there again in terms of the number of vaccine doses we were able to purchase,” Jha said.

“What really limits us is the lack of resources, but we’re leveraging other high-priority things. So hopefully we can have that for every adult in America. We’ll find out more about that in the coming weeks I think,” he added.

So far, the United States has contracted 105 million doses of the newly updated boosters from Pfizer and 66 million doses from Moderna, the two leading COVID vaccine makers for the country. Both contracts with Pfizer and Moderna include an option for hundreds of millions more doses, if the US gets the money.

Between Pfizer and Moderna, if the two companies were able to complete their orders, the United States would have about 171 million doses of the new vaccines. But more than 260 million Americans have already received at least one dose of the vaccine and would theoretically consider getting a booster.

On the other hand, the demand for boosters dropped with each campaign for people to get another shot. About 108 million people received their first booster shot, for example.

The White House said it had withdrawn $5 billion to cover the cost of vaccines for this fall and winter. Between the $3.2 billion given to Pfizer and the $1.74 billion given to Moderna so far, the government has hit that cap.

Because fall and winter typically bring a high volume of flu cases, Jha also urged the public to get their flu shot and update COVID reminders as soon as they can — or else risk it. a harsh winter of the disease with much looser mitigation efforts than each of the winter of the pandemic so far.

“Our health care system is going to be in serious trouble unless we are very proactive about preventing it – so if we do nothing and just hope for the best, I think we could end up in a lot of trouble this fall and winter, says Jha.

People can get the flu and COVID shots on the same day, Jha noted, and he said he hopes by next year the technology will have improved to the point where there is a combined two-in-one booster. one available for both flu and COVID.

He also stressed the importance of improving ventilation in businesses and schools, which was also a priority in the CDC’s latest guidance released last week.

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