“Winter is not that far off,” President Joe Biden said in a statement Tuesday. “Over the past two years we have seen an increase in Covid-19 cases and deaths. It doesn’t have to be this year. If you’re 12 and older, go get your new Covid-19 vaccine this fall.
Who can get a hit?
The FDA authorized the emergency use of Pfizer-BioNTech’s bivalent boosters last Wednesday for anyone over the age of 12 and Moderna’s bivalent booster for adults, as long as at least two months have passed since the last shot. The CDC’s independent vaccine advisory board subsequently recommended the injections the next day, a move quickly formalized by Walensky.
People who have not received a Covid-19 injection cannot receive a booster until they have completed the original vaccination regimen. The White House said the Covid-19 strikes would be redrafted for annual recall campaigns. This year, the shot includes the original Covid strain plus the Omicron Subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, which are the most commonly circulating variants in the population.
What’s new in this version of the Covid-19 vaccine?
The FDA and CDC cleared the new boosters based on available data from mouse and human studies using another reformulated booster that targeted a previously dominant strain.
There are no clinical trial data to support the specific bivalent boosters, but the agencies believe the evidence from the studies the companies have had time to conduct is sufficient, given the continuing risk of the virus’ evolution. The process is similar to how health authorities develop and update the annual flu shot.
When and where can you give it a try?
Major retail pharmacies, such as CVS and Walgreens, began offering appointments for the new bivalent shots on Friday. But individual pharmacies may not immediately offer the new bivalent boosters.
“The government distribution of the updated boosters is underground, and individual CVS pharmacy locations will receive COVID-19 bivalent boosters on an ongoing basis over the next few days and weeks,” CVS said in a statement last week.
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra told reporters on Tuesday that the Biden administration is particularly focused on making sure vaccines are available for high-risk Americans, particularly those aged 50 and over.
“By the end of this week, over 90 percent of Americans will be living within five miles of these new updated vaccines,” Becerra said. “We expect appointments to be widely available within the next week or so.”
What could make these plans change?
Biden administration officials pointed out that the recently unveiled strategy is based on current data and scientists’ understanding of the virus, which may change.
“The wildcard of an incoming out-of-left-field variant, if that happens, all bets are void and we change,” Fauci said.
Another wrinkle: Federal funds to purchase and distribute Covid-19 vaccines could run out as soon as January, Dawn O’Connell, Deputy Secretary for Preparation and Response, said in August.
“We have been grateful for the bipartisan support from Congress to our response efforts, but it has been more than 530 days since we last received new funding for COVID-19 and without additional funds it will be difficult to continue procuring and distributing these countermeasures.” , he wrote in a blog post.
However, plans are underway for the private sector to recoup the leeway when government funding runs out. Most Americans with health insurance will likely have the cost of Covid-19 vaccines covered by their plans, but public health experts warn access for the likely uninsured will suffer.