The Biden administration has just placed a big order for more COVID-19 vaccine.
A $3.2 billion agreement for 105 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine that will be used for a national fall vaccination campaign was announced Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The deal includes options for the purchase of up to 300 million doses.
It comes after a U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel of experts recommended changing COVID-19 booster shots to target some form of the omicron variant that raged through Utah and the rest of the country last winter, along with its subvariants that continue to spread.
The federal government is buying both adult and pediatric doses, as the vaccine is now available to infants as young as 6 months old. The first deliveries are expected in early fall, pending authorization of new formulation by the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement that the administration “is committed to doing everything we can to continue to make vaccines free and widely available to Americans — and this is an important first step to preparing us for the fall.”
Becerra said vaccines, offered as both an initial series of shots as well as in booster doses for anyone 5 and older, “have been a game changer in our fight against COVID-19, allowing people to return to normal activities knowing that vaccines protect from severe illness.”
In Utah, 62.5% of all residents are considered fully vaccinated, meaning it has been two weeks or more since their initial series of shots. But less than 30% have also gotten a booster dose of vaccine, even though older Utahns and those with certain medical conditions are already eligible for two extra shots.
The agency anticipates distributing the shots then “to state and local health departments, pharmacies, health care providers, federally qualified health centers, and other partners to make them available in communities around the country,” according to Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response.
The head of Pfizer said the agreement will help the nation cope with the next COVID-19 wave.
“As the virus evolves, this new agreement will help ensure people across the country have access to vaccines that may provide protection against current and future variants,” Pfizer chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement, adding that vaccines “remain critical to protecting people of all ages against COVID-19.”
The administration is covering the cost of the vaccines with existing funds, the department pointed out, since attempts to secure more money from Congress to battle COVID-19 so far have not succeeded, despite bipartisan efforts that included Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, on a $10 billion proposal.