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US shuts down summer COVID boosters to focus on fall campaign

WASHINGTON — U.S. regulators said Friday they are no longer considering authorizing a second COVID-19 booster vaccine for all adults under 50 this summer, focusing instead on reworked vaccines for the fall that will target the latest virus subtypes .

Pfizer and Moderna expect to have updated versions of their photos as early as September, the Food and Drug Administration said in a statement. This would kick off an autumn booster campaign to strengthen defenses against the latest omicron releases.

The announcement means the U.S. will not hold a summer round of boosters of current vaccines for adults under 50, as some Biden administration officials and outside experts have previously suggested. They argued that another round of booster vaccines could now help prevent rising cases and hospitalizations caused by the highly transmissible omicron strains.

Currently, all Americans age 5 and older are eligible for a booster shot five months after their initial primary series. The fourth doses of the Pfizer or Moderna shots — a second booster — are recommended for Americans 50 and older and for younger people with serious health conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19.

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The FDA urged eligible adults who have not received a booster to get their booster shot now: “You can still take advantage of existing booster options and allow time to get an updated booster in the fall,” the agency said in a statement .

The White House also stressed that getting a fourth dose now won’t affect anyone’s ability to get omicron-targeted vaccines once they’re made available — although how long it’s been since the last dose will play a role in how soon they are eligible.

Two omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5, are even more infectious than their predecessors and have pushed new daily cases above 125,000 and hospitalizations to 6,300. These are the highest levels since February, although deaths remain low – about 360 per day, thanks to widespread immunity and improved treatments against the virus.

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The sub-variants are offshoots of the strain responsible for nearly all of the virus outbreaks in the US this year.

All of the COVID-19 vaccines administered in the U.S. so far are based on the original version of the virus that began circulating in the country in early 2020.

In June, the FDA told vaccine makers that all fall boosters would have to combine protection against omicron BA.4 and BA.5 and the original strain of the coronavirus. Both manufacturers have ramped up production and data collection to prepare these so-called bivalent vaccines for the fall.

The FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will have to sign off on the redacted photos before they are released.

The US has a contract to buy 105 million doses of Pfizer’s combination injections once they are ready, and 66 million of Moderna’s version. But how soon large quantities will become available is unclear.

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As for the timing, getting a booster too soon after the previous dose means missing out on its full benefit – something policymakers will need to take into account when releasing reworked shots.

The White House has sometimes been frustrated by the pace of decision-making at the FDA and CDC, most notably last summer when regulators needed weeks to decide whether to authorize the first booster dose for adults in the US. West Wing personnel believe the delay cost lives, preventing optimal protection against delta and omicron waves, but also fueled doubts about the effectiveness of the vaccine and booster, which affected their uptake.

In recent weeks, some of those frustrations have resurfaced as regulators considered whether to recommend a fourth vaccine for all adults, not just those at highest risk of the virus. Some in the White House believe the extra dose would go some way with the rapidly spreading BA.5 sub-variant and also boost the confidence of anyone worried that their defenses have been weakened.

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Still, government officials acknowledged the risks of vaccine fatigue among Americans, including tens of millions who have yet to receive their first booster. Government figures show that less than half of those eligible for a booster received this third vaccine.

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Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this story from Washington.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Division is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Science Education Division. AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.

US shuts down summer COVID boosters to focus on fall campaign

Source link US shuts down summer COVID boosters to focus on fall campaign

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