Moderna and Pfizer booster shots updated to target Omicron subvariants could be available in early fall, pending sign off by federal health agencies, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Friday.
The department announced on Friday an agreement to purchase 66 million doses of Moderna's bivalent booster shot for potential use in fall and winter. That's in addition to 105 million bivalent boosters the U.S. government has purchased from Pfizer.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advised vaccine makers in June to update COVID-19 vaccine booster to add an Omicron BA.4/5 component to the current vaccine mix to create a bivalent booster.
The shots had been expected to be available in October. But the New York Times reported on Thursday that the updated shots could be available in mid-September, according to sources familiar with the deliberations.
Updated shots would need to be authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CNN has reached out to Pfizer and Moderna for comment.
The Times reported that all adults are expected to be eligible for an updated second booster, and children could also be eligible.
Currently, people age 5 and older are eligible for a first booster shot, but only those 50 and older and some immunocompromised people are eligible for second boosters.
As the BA.5 subvariant began to drive increases in COVID-19 cases, federal officials had said the U.S. was considering offering second boosters of the current coronavirus vaccines to people younger than 50. The Times reported that officials agreed that the goal should be to strengthen immunity in the fall, hopefully with a more effective booster.
In late June, vaccine makers said boosters updated to target Omicron showed a stronger immune response than the current vaccines.
Combined, the U.S. government's two agreements with Moderna and Pfizer would make about 171 million bivalent vaccine booster doses available to the U.S. for the fall and winter, should they be authorized and recommended.
But the Biden administration added in its announcement on Friday that would not be enough for every single U.S. resident. While both the Moderna and Pfizer agreements include options to purchase a total of 600 million doses -- 300 million from each company -- those options "can only be exercised with additional funding from Congress," according to the announcement.
"We look forward to receiving these new variant-specific vaccines and working with state and local healthcare partners to make the vaccines available for free in communities around the country this fall," said HHS Assistant Secretary Dawn O'Connell who leads the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response, in the HHS news release.
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