COVID update: Updated boosters could be available in 3 weeks, White House predicts

WASHINGTON– Newly updated COVID-19 boosters tailored to a dominant virus strain will be available in the next three weeks, assuming the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention work through their approval processes as expected.

That was the prediction of White House COVID coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha, on Tuesday at an event hosted by the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

In late June, the FDA directed Moderna and Pfizer to manufacture vaccines targeting the more contagious BA.5 omicron subvariant along with the original COVID strain for the coming winter. That work is ongoing, and the next step is for the FDA and CDC to review the companies’ data once they receive it.

Neither the FDA nor the CDC have announced a timeline.

The rollout was expected sometime in September, but Jha’s guess from Tuesday was the most specific yet.

“We will learn more about this in the coming weeks and these vaccines will be available in early to mid-September,” he said, again adding the caveat that the FDA and CDC must act before anything can be official.

“But the bottom line is that these are major improvements in our vaccines,” Jha said. “And those vaccines are coming very, very soon.”

Jha also said he’s confident there will eventually be enough vaccine supplies for every adult who wants a new booster shot to get one, despite funding disputes that have forced the federal government to only order enough for the most vulnerable Americans.

“We’re still working on sourcing 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 am confident that we will be there. We’re not quite advanced in terms of the number of vaccine doses we could buy,” Jha said.

“What’s really limiting us is a lack of resources, but we’re resorting to other high-priority things. So my hope is that we can have this for every single adult in America. We’ll find out more about that in the coming weeks I think,” he added.

So far, the US has contracted 105 million doses of newly updated boosters from Pfizer and 66 million doses from Moderna, the country’s two top COVID vaccine makers. Both contracts with Pfizer and Moderna include an option for hundreds of millions more doses should the US secure the money.

Between Pfizer and Moderna, if both companies could complete their orders, the US would have about 171 million doses of the new vaccines. But more than 260 million Americans have already received at least one dose of vaccine and would theoretically consider a booster.

On the other hand, the demand for boosters has gone down with each campaign to keep people getting another shot. For example, around 108 million people received their first booster shot.

The White House said it withdrew $5 billion to cover the cost of vaccines this fall and winter. Between the $3.2 billion awarded to Pfizer and the $1.74 billion awarded to Moderna so far, the government has hit that cap.

Since fall and winter usually bring large numbers of flu cases, Jha also urged the public to get both their flu shots and updated COVID boosters as soon as possible — or risk a harsh winter of illness with far looser containment efforts than any winter of the pandemic so far.

“Our healthcare system is going to be in serious trouble unless we are very proactive in preventing this. So if we do nothing and just hope for the best, I think we could be in big trouble this fall and winter,” Jha said.

People can get their flu and COVID shots on the same day, Jha noted, and he said he hopes over the next year the technology will have improved enough to have a two-in-one combo booster for both for the flu as well as for COVID.

He also stressed the importance of improving ventilation in businesses and schools, which was also prioritized in last week’s latest CDC guidance.

Copyright © 2022 ABC News Internet Ventures. COVID update: Updated boosters could be available in 3 weeks, White House predicts

Dais Johnston

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