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Less than 2% of American adults have received updated Covid booster shots


At least 4.4 million people have received an updated Covid reminder since the start of the month, according to data released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This number represents approximately 1.5% of people currently eligible to receive the injections in the United States.

The data does not include people who received updated Pfizer-BioNTech boosters in Idaho and Texas, the CDC said, so it’s likely an underestimate. The White House estimates the number is closer to 5 million doses of the new recall, the Associated Press reported.

The CDC approved updated versions of booster shots from Pfizer and Moderna on Sept. 1, and pharmacies and other vaccination sites began administering the new shots around Labor Day weekend. The bivalent shots target both the original coronavirus strain and the currently circulating omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants.

Dr Scott Roberts, an infectious disease specialist at Yale Medicine, said the relatively low booster intake was “demoralizing”.

“I would expect a much higher proportion of Americans to have received the recall at this point,” he said.

Roberts said a lack of public awareness of the shootings or the mainstream narrative that the pandemic is ending could have hampered the vaccine’s rollout.

“The fact that this reminder came out days before Biden said the pandemic is over is a huge mixed message,” he said. “Now it’s going to be a lot harder to convince at-risk people who are on the fence to get a recall.”

Yet the United States has seen an increase in overall demand for Covid vaccines since the recall rollout began: The United States currently administers about 314,000 doses of Covid vaccine per day, on average weekly. This is almost triple the number since the beginning of the month.

As of Tuesday, the United States had shipped more than 25 million bivalent booster doses to tens of thousands of sites. The vast majority of the population now lives within 8 km of a site offering updated vaccines.

The CDC recommends anyone over the age of 12 get an updated booster, provided that at least two months have passed since their last Covid shot. People who have recently contracted Covid should at least wait until their acute illness is over, and the CDC says they can consider delaying their boosters until three months after their symptoms started or since they were tested. positive for the first time.

People can mix and match vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, but Pfizer’s updated booster is available for people ages 12 and older, while Moderna’s is limited to ages 18 and older.

Some pharmacies reported updated recall shortages from Moderna earlier this week. But CVS said Thursday it has started receiving additional doses of Moderna and expects more in the days and weeks to come. Walgreens said the availability of Moderna doses varies by location.

Nearly 80% of the US population has received at least one injection of a primary Covid vaccine, and nearly 68% are considered fully vaccinated by the CDC, meaning they have received either one dose of the vaccine Johnson & Johnson, or two injections of Pfizer. , Moderna or Novavax, which was authorized in July.

Biden administration officials, however, stressed that the updated boosters were a crucial step in pulling the United States out of the pandemic.

“For the first time since December 2020, these vaccines, our vaccines, have caught up with the virus,” White House Covid-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha said during a briefing earlier this month.

Jha said the vaccines should provide better protection against infection and transmission, as well as longer lasting protection against serious illness, compared to earlier Covid vaccines.

But experts are still gathering real-world data, since the shots were handed out without human test results. Laboratory studies found the boosters generated strong antibody responses against BA.4 and BA.5, and human trial data showed that a similar vaccine produced a strong antibody response against the parent strain. of omicron, BA.1.

Authorization of bivalent boosters for children ages 5 to 11 could be weeks away, said Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, at an event this week. with the Covid-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project.

Public health officials expect to see another wave of Covid around Thanksgiving, and flu season tends to pick up in October, so the CDC says Covid reminders and updated flu shots can be administered together.

If the pace of booster vaccinations doesn’t pick up, Roberts said, the United States could see an increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

“A lot of people definitely need a reminder and it comes at a critical time,” he said. “We are entering the winter season when we expect cases to increase. Many parts of the country currently continue to have high levels of the virus circulating.”

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed.

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