The Biden administration has decided against expanding eligibility for another booster dose until this fall, when millions of doses of vaccines targeted at BA.5, the omicron subvariant of the virus sweeping the nation, are anticipated to be available, according to reporting by The New York Times.
Although Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, and Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House pandemic response coordinator, argued in favor of broadening who could get the additional shots now, officials from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention prevailed, the newspaper said.
Citing sources familiar with the discussions, the Times said all adults — and possibly some children — would likely be able to get the updated booster shots from Pfizer and Moderna that the pharmaceutical companies have promised should be delivered by mid-September.
A first booster shot is available to anyone 5 and older following the initial series of COVID-19 vaccines now offered to children as young as 6 months old. But the CDC says only those 50 and older, or who are at least 12 years old and are considered moderately or severely immunocompromised get a second booster shot.
Recent increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Utah and across the nation from BA.5 has emphasized the risk that continues from the virus. Because the latest subvariant is better able to evade both vaccinations and previous infections, experts are advising people to stay up to date on their shots, including booster doses.
That means getting the additional dose — or doses for those already eligible — now rather than waiting until the new shots are ready.
“Postponing your booster leaves you vulnerable now,” Salt Lake County Health Department spokesman Nicholas Rupp said earlier this month. “Even if current boosters don’t protect from infection with new variants quite as much, they do still strongly help prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death.”
Both Rupp and Utah State Epidemiologist Dr. Leisha Nolen said that people getting their booster shots should still be eligible for the newly formulated booster shots later this year. The timing of the new shots has yet to be determined, the Times said. At least four months is currently required between a first and second booster.
Some of concern about allowing younger and healthier Americans to get a second booster shot now was over the possibility that once the new vaccine becomes available, they would not wait long enough between doses to ensure their effectiveness, according to the Times.
“You can’t get a vaccine shot Aug. 1 and get another vaccine shot Sept. 15 and expect the second shot to do anything,” Shane Crotty, a virologist at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, told the Times. “You’ve got so much antibody around, if you get another dose, it won’t do anything.”