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Biden Administration to Offer Updated Booster Shots Late September

July 29, 2022

With reformulated shots from Pfizer and Moderna on the horizon, the F.D.A. has decided that Americans under 50 should wait to receive second boosters.

(NYT) The Biden administration now expects to begin a Covid-19 booster campaign with retooled vaccines in September because Pfizer and Moderna have promised that they can deliver doses by then, according to people familiar with the deliberations.

The new versions are expected to perform better against the now-dominant Omicron subvariant BA.5, although the data available so far is still preliminary.

All adults are expected to be eligible for the updated booster shots. Children could be eligible as well.

But you can’t get them too close together. Especially for young men, two boosters in close succession might elevate the risk of a rare heart-related side effect, myocarditis, that has been linked to both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines.

For other reasons, immunologists warn against receiving booster shots in short intervals.

Then there is the public’s patience with additional shots. The number of recipients has been dropping with each new dose offered. While nearly half of those eligible for the first booster opted to get it, for example, fewer than 30 percent of eligible Americans have chosen to receive the second booster — their fourth shot in total.

The Biden administration has been busy contracting for the newly designed doses. The Department of Health and Human Services recently made an advance purchase of 105 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine for $3.2 billion, timed for possible deployment in the fall. The administration is expected to finalize a similar arrangement with Moderna soon.

The government’s decision comes as cases of the highly contagious BA.5 variant remain high across the country. Deaths and hospitalizations have risen in recent weeks. The number of new cases announced each day has hovered near 130,000 — likely a significant undercount because of the number of home tests that go unreported — and President Biden just had his own bout with the variant.

Deaths from Covid-19 are still heavily concentrated among older age groups, while hospitalizations remain well below the peak of the Omicron wave last winter.

Pfizer said that the company was prepared to deliver doses by early October. Dr. Stephen Hoge, the president of Moderna, said his company would be able to deliver reformulated shots only by late October or early November.

But more recently, both companies assured federal officials that they could speed up their timetables and be ready in early September.

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