The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted approval for updated COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, specifically targeting the omicron variant XBB.1.5. These updated vaccines are authorized for use in individuals aged 12 and older, while emergency use authorization has been granted for children aged 6 months to 11 years.
However, these updated vaccines are not yet available to the public. A CDC advisory panel is set to meet to provide recommendations on their use, and once the CDC director approves these recommendations, the vaccines can be administered at various vaccination sites.
The Biden administration had previously announced its expectations for these updated single-strain vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax to be available to the public in mid-September. However, as of this announcement, there has been no decision from the FDA regarding an updated COVID-19 shot from Novavax.
These updated vaccines are seen as reassuring news as the United States experiences a rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, primarily due to closely related strains like EG.5 or Eris. It’s important to note that the vaccines don’t target the current dominant variants but are expected to provide protection as the colder months approach.
Pfizer and Moderna have indicated that their updated shots also offer protection against highly mutated omicron subvariants like BA.2.86.
The distribution of these updated vaccines marks a shift as the U.S. COVID-19 public health emergency declaration ended in May. The private market will now handle vaccine distribution, with manufacturers selling the vaccines directly to healthcare providers.
While private insurers and government payers are expected to provide the vaccines at no cost to individuals, it remains to be seen how many Americans will choose to receive updated COVID-19 shots in the coming months. As of this announcement, only about 17% of the U.S. population has received Pfizer’s and Moderna’s latest boosters since their approval in September 2022.
The availability of these updated vaccines is expected to help in managing the ongoing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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