U.S. regulators said Friday they are no longer considering authorizing a second COVID-19 booster shot for all adults under 50 this summer, focusing instead on revamped vaccines for the fall that will target the newest coronavirus subvariants.
Pfizer and Moderna expect to have updated versions of their shots available as early as September, the Food and Drug Administration said in a statement. That would set the stage for a fall booster campaign to strengthen protection against the latest versions of Omicron.
The announcement means the U.S. won’t pursue a summer round of boosters of the current vaccines for adults under 50, as some Biden administration officials and outside experts previously suggested. They had argued that another round of booster shots now could help head off rising cases and hospitalizations caused by the highly transmissible Omicron strains.
Currently, all Americans age 5 and over are eligible for a booster shot five months after their initial primary series. Fourth doses of the Pfizer or Moderna shots — a second booster — are recommended for Americans 50 and older and for younger people with serious health issues that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19.
The FDA urged eligible adults who haven’t been boosted to get their extra shot now: “You can still benefit from existing booster options and leave time to receive an updated booster in the fall,” the agency said in a statement.
The White House has also emphasized that getting a fourth dose now won’t affect anyone’s ability to get Omicron-targeted shots once they’re made available — although how long it’s been since their last dose will play a role in how soon they’re eligible.
Two Omicron sub- variants, BA.4 and BA.5, are even more contagious than their predecessors and have pushed new daily cases above 125,000 and hospitalizations to 6,300. Those are the highest levels since February, though deaths have remained low at about 360 per day, thanks to widespread immunity and improved treatments against the virus.
The subvariants are offshoots of the strain that has been responsible for