The Biden administration plans to offer updated Covid booster shots in September, an administration official confirmed to NBC News on Friday.
The new vaccines will be reformulated to work better against the now dominant and highly contagious omicron subvariant BA.5, as well as the BA.4 subvariant.
Pfizer and Moderna say they’ll have the retooled boosters ready by fall, and the federal government has purchased millions of doses to distribute to the public, but that’s not enough to inoculate all Americans.
News of the fall rollout of the updated boosters was first reported by The New York Times.
BA.4 and BA.5 – considered the most contagious forms of the virus to date – accounted for more than 90% of all new Covid cases in the United States for the week ending July 23, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health officials have rushed to tackle the aggressive subvariants, with the US Food and Drug Administration recommending last month that vaccine makers update their vaccines 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 recalls are cleared by the FDA and CDC, the first shipments from both manufacturers will be received in early fall, Health and Human Services said in a news release.
Together, Moderna and Pfizer will provide 171 million booster doses of the bivalent vaccine for the fall and beyond, if authorized and recommended — but that’s not enough for every American to get a dose, according to the release.
Health and Human Services said 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 funding from Congress. “.
The department stressed in the statement that existing Covid vaccines “remain the most important tool for preventing serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths.” Given the threat posed by the BA.5 subvariant, it is vital that Americans “stay up to date 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,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in the statement. “As we look to fall and winter, that’s exactly what we’re doing — making sure Americans have the tools they need to stay safe and help our nation move forward. .”
Currently, only Americans over 50 or those over 12 with certain immune deficiencies are eligible for a second booster dose. Of people over 50 who received their first booster, only about 30% received their second, according to CDC data.
Covid hospitalizations have increased modestly in the United States, as subvariants continue to account for a greater proportion of new cases.
Berkeley Lovelace Jr. and Erika Edwards contributed.