Omicron-tweaked vaccines could be for everyone 12 and up, White House says

The updated COVID-19 boosters aimed at targeting omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 could soon be authorized for people 12 and older, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha, MD, told NBC News Aug. 17.

Drugmakers are racing to test the modified vaccines — which are poised to include half of the original vaccine and half of an omicron subvariant — after the FDA signaled the companies in June to update their products after BA.4 and BA.5 quickly became dominant. Before now, regulators haven't said who the tweaked boosters are for. 

"I believe it's going to be available and every American over the age of 12 will be eligible for it," Dr. Jha told NBC News

The decision could be because the younger the age group, the lower the vaccination rates, according to CDC tracking. And with school starting soon, this could indicate the latest effort to increase inoculation rates before classrooms fill up again. 

Dr. Jha also said the boosters will be available "in a few short weeks," which follows the previous federal deadline reportedly for mid-September. 

The FDA and CDC haven't cleared any options yet for emergency use, but the U.S. has already bought 66 million doses of Moderna's candidate. In a phase 3 trial, Moderna's tweaked vaccine found an efficacy rate against BA.4 and BA.5 that's nearly twice as strong as its original vaccine. 

Other vaccine-makers are also competing in the race, including Pfizer-BioNTech, which said its omicron-focused candidate resulted in a "substantially higher immune response" in a phase 2/3 study. 

The most recent CDC data shows BA.5 accounting for 89 percent of infections and BA.4 accounting for 5.3 percent.


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