WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) – The United States on Wednesday authorized its first update to COVID-19 vaccines, with a booster dose focused on the most common Omicron strain today. Injections can begin in a few days.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decision revises the formulation of vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and its rival Moderna, which have already saved millions of lives. Hopefully the revised reinforcements will prevent another winter boom.
“You’ll see me at the front of the line,” the FDA’s chief vaccine officer, Dr. Peter Marks, told the Associated Press shortly before his agency authorized the new dose.
Until now, vaccines against COVID-19 have focused on the original version of the coronavirus, although very different mutants have appeared. The new booster shots in the United States are combined or “bivalent”. These contain half the formula of the original vaccine and half the protection against newer versions of Omicron, called BA.4 and BA.5, which are believed to be the most infectious by far.
The purpose of the combination is to enhance cross-protection against multiple variants.
“It really offers the best chance of protection,” Pfizer’s chief vaccine officer, Annalisa Anderson, told the Associated Press.
Boosters are only for people who have already received the regular vaccine with the original formulation. The dosage regimen made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech is for people 12 years of age and older, while Moderna is only for adults, as long as it’s been at least two months since their last shot. They should not be used as a first vaccine.
There’s one more step before vaccination campaigns begin this fall: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) should recommend who should get them. A CDC panel will debate the issue Thursday, including first vaccinating high-risk populations.
“As we head into the fall and begin to spend more time indoors, we strongly encourage all who are eligible to consider receiving a bivalent booster vaccine to better protect against the currently circulating forms of ” FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf said in a press release.
The United States has purchased more than 170 million doses from both companies. Pfizer announced that it will be able to deliver 15 million by the end of next week.
It remains to be seen whether the population, already tired of so many vaccines, will be willing to roll up their sleeves again. More than half of the eligible population in the United States received the first booster dose, and only about a third of people age 50 and older received a second booster.
Associated Press writer Matthew Perrone contributed to this report
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