US health officials agreed to buy 105 million doses of COVID vaccine for the fall campaign

WASHINGTON — U.S. health officials announced Wednesday that they have agreed to purchase an additional 105 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in anticipation of a fall booster campaign.

The $3.2 billion deal announced by the Biden administration comes as federal scientists ponder how to update vaccines to better protect Americans from the rapidly evolving virus.

Federal officials said the purchase agreement included an option to purchase a total of 300 million cans, including a mix of adult and children’s cans.

The first shots would be fired until early fall, pending a decision from the Food and Drug Administration to approve new versions of the shots.

A decision from the FDA is expected in the coming days after a meeting on Tuesday at which outside consultants recommended modifying the vaccines to better target the Omicron variant.

Current vaccines continue to provide strong protection against hospitalization and death, but their ability to block infection decreased significantly when omicron emerged.

It’s not yet clear who would be offered a streamlined booster – they may only be recommended for older adults or those at high risk from the virus. But once the FDA decides on the prescription change, Pfizer and competitor Moderna will have to seek approval for the correspondingly updated doses, time for health officials to agree on a case strategy.

Wednesday’s announcement came as Congress was deadlocked over billions in funding requested by the Biden administration to buy additional vaccines, tests and drugs to fight the pandemic.

House and Senate lawmakers have been bickering for weeks over how to resolve the standoff. Funding for Pfizer’s recent purchase comes from reallocated funds from previous COVID-19 relief packages, officials said.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. US health officials agreed to buy 105 million doses of COVID vaccine for the fall campaign

Dais Johnston

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