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Friday, December 9th, 2022

Biden administration locks in millions of Moderna, Pfizer variant-specific COVID-19 vaccine boosters

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For use later this year, the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Defense (DoD) announced last week that they had bought 66 million doses of a Moderna bivalent COVID-19 vaccine booster candidate.

“We must stay vigilant in our fight against COVID-19 and continue to expand Americans’ access to the best vaccines and treatments,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said. “As we look to the fall and winter, we’re doing just that—ensuring Americans have the tools they need to stay safe and help keep our nation moving forward.”

The announcement followed urging from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last month that vaccine manufacturers revise their COVID-19 vaccines to create bivalent boosters capable of targeting the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron sub-variants, which have proven adept at infecting those supposedly rendered immune to earlier forms of Omicron and other variants. While authorization from the FDA is pending, the new doses are in addition to the 105 million bivalent COVID-19 vaccine booster doses the United States already purchased from Pfizer for use later this year.

If all goes well, the first deliveries of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine booster doses could arrive early this fall. Combined, they could provide approximately 171 million booster doses – a high figure but not enough to cover all Americans. Both agreements include options for up to 300 million doses from each company, meaning a total of 600 million doses, though this would require additional funding from Congress. Already feeling the lack of this, the White House had to pull $10 billion from COVID-19 response efforts to pay for additional vaccines and treatments.

“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,” HHS Assistant Secretary Dawn O’Connell, Biden administration lead for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR), said.

In the meantime, HHS continues to emphasize existing COVID-19 vaccines for preventing the effects of COVID-19.