July 31, 2022 — The Biden administration plans to begin a COVID-19 booster campaign with reformulated vaccines in September, according to 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 expected to provide better protection against the Omicron subvariants, including BA.5.
For now, only adults over age 50 and those over age 12 with immune deficiencies are eligible for second booster doses of the current vaccines. FDA officials debated last week whether to open eligibility now as the BA.5 subvariant drives up coronavirus cases across the country. But they decided to wait to boost immunity in September to protect against a potential winter surge.
On Friday, Moderna announced a new $1.74 supply contract with the U.S. for an initial 66 million doses of the new “bivalent” vaccine, which contains the original coronavirus strain and mRNA from the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. The contract includes options to purchase up to 234 million additional doses of the booster.
“Moderna’s mRNA platform is enabling us to rapidly create mRNA-1273.222, a bivalent vaccine that specifically targets Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, the most prevalent variants of concern in the U.S. today,” Stephane Bancel, Moderna’s CEO, said in the statement.
In late June, Pfizer-BioNTech also announced a $3.2 billion agreement with the U.S. for 105 million vaccine doses, which had the option to include Omicron-adapted vaccines for adults. The doses were slated to be delivered as soon as the late summer and continue into the last quarter of 2022. The contract includes an option to buy 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 delivery projections from the companies, 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 at that time, and children could be eligible as well.
About 83.5% of ages 5 and older have received at least one COVID-19 shot, and 71.5% are considered fully vaccinated with the initial vaccine series, according to the latest CDC data. About 48% have received one booster dose, and 31% of ages 50 and older have received a second booster dose so far.
The daily average of coronavirus cases continues to hover around 130,000 new cases per day, according to the data tracker from 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 being reported each day.