US places $3.2 billion order for updated COVID-19 vaccines for fall

The Biden administration announced Wednesday that is paying $3.2 billion for 105 million doses of an updated Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for a fall campaign, pending Food and Drug Administration signoff on the new formula.  

The order is a major step in the administration’s efforts to move forward with a new vaccination push this fall, in a bid to blunt a renewed COVID-19 surge when the weather turns colder in much of the country.  

The updated vaccine is expected to target the omicron variant, with the goal of providing improved protection.  

The new doses are expected to begin to be delivered “as soon as late summer 2022 and continue into the fourth quarter of this year,” Pfizer said in a news release.  

The Biden administration is using money that it was forced to cut from other areas of its COVID-19 response after Congress did not act on the administration’s request for new funds.  

The administration warns that it has had to cut money from important areas like maintaining testing capacity and doing research on improved vaccines, such as “pan-coronavirus” shots that work on multiple variants.  

The White House is still pushing for more money from Congress, but prospects on Capitol Hill are not looking particularly hopeful amid a continued stalemate. Republicans have pushed back on the urgency for the funds.  

White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha said that “despite months of warnings from the Administration on the consequences of a lack of funding,” due to Congress’s lack of action, Wednesday’s order “will not purchase enough vaccines to offer one of these new booster shots to every adult and unfortunately, comes at the expense of continued funding for other critical pandemic response needs like testing manufacturing and domestic vaccine manufacturing.”

The order placed on Wednesday, though, will ensure the country is not completely lacking in updated vaccines for the fall.  

“We look forward to taking delivery of these new variant-specific vaccines and working with 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 this fall,” said Dawn O’Connell, an assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services.  

A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee on Thursday gave the green light to updating vaccines for omicron, though there are still more steps in the approval process.

Uptake of even a first booster dose, which is recommended for everyone aged 5 and older, has been lagging, an indication that not everyone will want an updated booster this fall.  

About 105 million people have received their first booster dose, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures.  

Updated at 7:11 p.m.

Tags Ashish Jha Biden COVID-19 vaccines Dawn O'Connell Joe Biden omicron variant
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