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Omicron-specific booster shots are expected to come in the next few months

BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of omicron make up over 50% of all coronavirus cases in the United States

SHARE Omicron-specific booster shots are expected to come in the next few months
An illustration for the omicron variant.

Alex Cochran, Deseret News

The Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee voted Tuesday to approve COVID-19 booster vaccines that will specifically target omicron-related symptoms.

Why it matters: As omicron continues to mutate into increasingly contagious subvariants, including the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, and vaccine protection decreases, experts are concerned about expected spikes of COVID-19 infections in the coming months.

  • In a 19-2 vote, FDA officials determined vaccines need to be updated to offer protection against omicron in order to boost Americans’ defenses, Axios reported.

What they’re saying: Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, believes updated vaccines will be crucial in protecting against future waves of the virus, saying, “... as we move into this coming fall when there will be a confluence of factors that make us more susceptible to yet another wave of COVID-19, we feel it’s important to potentially look at what we could do with giving additional vaccinations, that is booster vaccinations, to protect us,” per Stat.

  • Marks went on to describe the struggles the FDA has faced while studying COVID-19, saying, “None of us has a crystal ball and we’re trying to use every last ounce of what we can from predictive modeling and data that’s emerging to try to get ahead of a virus that’s very crafty,” Axios reported.

  • “It’s essentially an arms race,” said Dr. Dan Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, per ABC News. “As the population becomes more immune, the virus becomes more and more immune evasive.”

The bigger picture: As of June 28, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said BA.4 and BA.5 combined make up 52% of all coronavirus cases in the United States, the Deseret News reported.

  • New omicron booster shots could be ready as early as October.
  • Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna said an updated mRNA vaccine may become available in October “if regulatory uncertainties are ironed out. Novavax is still awaiting emergency use authorization for its protein-based shot, but said it could have an updated vaccine by the fourth quarter,” reports Axios.