President Joe Biden’s top Covid-19 advisers said on Tuesday they weren’t changing their strategy as the ramp-up of the new Omicron sub-variant, BA.5, continues to cover the country.
While stressing that Americans should keep up to date with their booster shots, especially for those over 50, NIH’s Tony Fauci, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky and White House coronavirus response coordinator Ashish Jha pointed out that those receiving reminders now won’t miss the Omicron Targeted Boosters coming this fall.
“Getting vaccinated now doesn’t preclude a fall booster,” Fauci said at a White House press conference. Although officials offered few details on a potential second booster (of the original Pfizer and Moderna vaccines) for all adults, a White House fact sheet released Tuesday clearly outlined the benefits of the booster:
According to the latest data from the CDC, adults who are up to date with their vaccinations are 3.5 times less likely to be hospitalized than unvaccinated adults; among people 50 and older, people who have had two booster shots are 42 times less likely to die from COVID-19 than those who are not vaccinated.
But details on the upcoming Omicron-targeted recall campaign this fall remain scarce, and the final decision on approval will rest with the FDA.
Late last month, the US government agreed to pay Pfizer/BioNTech $3.2 billion upon receipt of 105 million of these Omicron-suitable boosters, pending EUA.
But Jha told reporters there was no exact timeline for the rollout of this campaign, and some Americans are expected to start receiving doses in early October. He also pointed out that not all 105 million of those doses would be ready by October and that others will receive their updated reminders in November and December.
Moderna is also working on its own targeted Omicron booster, and Jha said the US was in talks with other companies about new purchases, but he didn’t mention any details.
Variants will continue to emerge, Fauci pointed out. Although there may be waning immunity with the vaccine to protect against BA.4/5 infection, Fauci noted that current Covid injections continue to provide strong protection against serious disease.
These reminders and a rapidly growing supply of Pfizer’s antiviral Paxlovid are essential as Walensky noted that there has been a doubling in the number of Covid-related hospitalizations since April, while Jha pointed out that the death rate current rate of around 350 per day is still too high.