The White House said Thursday it will make an all-out push to get Americans to roll up their sleeves for another COVID-19 shot, framing a reformulated booster shot as the start of a fall tradition alongside the yearly flu shot.
The administration has secured over 170 million doses of the new bivalent vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which target both the original strain discovered in China and the fast-moving BA.4 and BA.5 variants that are dominant in the U.S. Regulators worked with drugmakers to update the boosters because they wanted the best antibody response to what is circulating now.
“As the first nation in the world with updated vaccines that target the strain of omicron that is dominant in the U.S. and around the world, we have a new, powerful tool to prevent serious illness and death, keep businesses and schools open, and get back to our more normal routines,” the White House said Thursday.
By the end of the week, over 90% of Americans should live within 5 miles of a vaccination site, including pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens. The shots will be available to Americans for free.
Mr. Biden had planned to extol the new boosters in a White House speech but canceled his remarks after Queen Elizabeth II’s death.
The administration is treating COVID-19 as a serious but manageable disease that can be kept in check with vaccines and treatment. Yet it has been several months to nearly a year since many Americans got their last booster, so Mr. Biden and his team are worried that a combination of waning immunity and indoor gatherings in the cold weather will generate the kind of surge the U.S. saw in 2020 and 2021.
“As the weather gets colder and people spend more time indoors, contagious viruses like COVID-19 can spread more easily. And, as we saw last fall with the emergence of omicron, we must continue to stay prepared for the possibility of a potential new variant of concern,” the White House said.
Getting Americans to stay up to date on the shots has been difficult.
About two-thirds of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Only half of those fully vaccinated — about one-third of the U.S. population — have come forward for an initial booster, and only a third of those age 50 or older and eligible for a second booster have bothered to get the fourth shot.
Biden officials are trying to move away from counting up doses — third shot, fourth shot, fifth shot and so on — and characterizing the process as a primary series of two shots followed by boosters at appropriate intervals.
“We likely are moving towards a path with a vaccination cadence similar to that of the annual influenza vaccine, with annual, updated COVID-19 shots matched to the currently circulating strains for most of the population,” Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said earlier this week.
For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.