White House Will Roll Out Updated COVID Boosters For Everyone 12 & Up
The updated booster shots the protect against two omicron variants will be available “in a few short weeks.”
“I believe it’s going to be available and every American over the age of 12 will be eligible for it,” Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID coordinator, told NBC News’ Lester Holt.
The new boosters are designed to protect against omicron BA.4 and BA.5, the latter of which accounts for nearly 90% of new COVID cases in the U.S., according to the CDC.
"We're going to know more about this in the upcoming weeks and these vaccines will become available by early to mid-September," Jha said at an event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, noting that the FDA and CDC need to act before anything can be official.
The FDA will determine how effective the updated shots are at protecting against the virus in studies using mice instead of humans, due to time constraints and an impending fall/winter twindemic. Jha said he expects that the new boosters should "work much better at preventing infection transmission and serious illness" than the current boosters. The new booster will be identical to the original vaccine, with the addition of proteins from the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants.
The companies making the boosters, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, are set to submit their data to the FDA and the CDC by the end of the month. Jha is optimistic that anyone ages 12 and over who wants a booster will have access to one. Previously, boosters rollouts have been limited to the most vulnerable populations due to limited vaccine funding and supply chain backups.
"We're still working on trying to pull more resources from other places. I would like to get to a point where every adult in America who wants a vaccine can get one. I'm hopeful we will be there. We're not quite there yet in terms of how many vaccine doses we've been able to buy," Jha said.
As of now, the U.S. has contracted for 105 million doses of updated boosters from Pfizer and 66 million doses from Moderna, with an option for millions of more doses down the line.
Along with getting a booster, Jha and other health experts advise eligible kids and adults alike to get the flu vaccine this year, as Australia’s flu season, which often predicts our own, was the worst it has been in five years.
"Our health care system is going to get into serious trouble unless we are very proactive about preventing it -- so if we do nothing and just sort of hope for the best, I think we could end up getting into a lot of trouble this fall and winter," Jha said.