U.S. secures 171 million omicron Covid shots ahead of fall vaccination campaign

A healthcare employee administers a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic within the Peabody Institute Library in Peabody, Massachusetts, U.S., on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022.

Vanessa Leroy | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Health and Human Services Department has secured 171 million doses of new Covid vaccines that concentrate on the omicron variant in preparation for a fall booster campaign.

The U.S. has agreed to buy 66 million doses of Moderna’s new vaccine system in a $1.74 billion deal, HHS introduced Friday. The Moderna order comes on prime of a $3.2 billion settlement to buy 105 million doses of Pfizer’s up to date shots that concentrate on omicron.

HHS expects to obtain the primary deliveries from Pfizer and Moderna early this fall. The new vaccines that concentrate on omicron nonetheless should be licensed by the Food and Drug Administration and cleared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The FDA final month advised Pfizer and Moderna to develop vaccines with a brand new system that targets the omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants along with the unique pressure of Covid that first emerged in Wuhan, China, in 2019.

Omicron BA.4 and BA.5, probably the most contagious Covid variants but, have brought on a wave of summer season an infection that has led to a rise in hospitalizations. Public well being officers and scientists are frightened that the U.S. faces a good bigger wave of an infection within the fall as immunity from the unique vaccines wanes and other people head indoors, the place the virus spreads simpler, to flee the chilly.

Omicron BA.5 makes up practically 82% of new infections within the U.S. whereas BA.4 is inflicting about 13% of new circumstances. The U.S. is reporting not less than 126,000 new infections a day on common as of Wednesday, in line with knowledge from the CDC. But the actual quantity of new infections is probably going far greater as a result of so many individuals are utilizing at-home Covid exams, which are not picked up by the official knowledge.

More than 6,300 individuals are hospitalized with Covid a day on common as of Tuesday, in line with CDC knowledge. More than 360 individuals are nonetheless dying from the virus a day on common as of Wednesday, in line with the info.

Moderna’s and Pfizer’s present shots are based mostly solely on the unique pressure of Covid that emerged from China greater than two years in the past. The virus has mutated dramatically since then and, as a consequence, the vaccines are not efficient at blocking infections. President Joe Biden just lately caught Covid, doubtless BA.5, regardless of being totally vaccinated and twice boosted. But the present vaccines are nonetheless efficient at stopping extreme illness and dying. The president recovered in a matter of days after additionally taking Paxlovid, Pfizer’s oral antiviral therapy.

Many public well being officers and scientists consider that updating the vaccines to focus on omicron BA.4 and BA.5 will present extra sturdy safety towards an infection this fall. But the virus is evolving shortly and it is unclear which variant will likely be dominant by that point.

Congress has did not go further funding to battle Covid. As a consequence, the White House shifted $10 billion from different components of the pandemic response to safe the brand new vaccines for the fall. This signifies that Covid testing, for instance, is likely to be weak heading into an anticipated fall wave.

The 171 million vaccine doses secured by the U.S. are additionally not sufficient to cowl everybody within the nation. Biden administration well being officers have warned that the U.S. might need to ration the shots to individuals on the highest threat of extreme illness within the fall.

The U.S. does have the choice to buy one other 600 million doses whole from Pfizer and Moderna however this may require further funding from Congress, in accordance HHS.

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