Omicron’s specific COVID-19 booster may be available in a few weeks, assuming federal agencies approve the new injection, a senior White House COVID-19 official said this week.
The booster has been widely anticipated for months, especially as Omicron’s latest dominant sub-variant, BA.5, “looks really different in many ways from the original strain we created the vaccines against,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, coordinator White House COVID-19 response, he said this week at a forum with the US Chamber of Commerce.
“The good news is that our vaccines are still doing a remarkable job of keeping people out of the hospital, particularly out of the ICU and worse,” Jha said. “But the impact of these vaccines in preventing infection has diminished over time due to this evolution” of the Omicron strain.
The new booster “should arrive in the next few weeks,” Jha said. “They will be available in early to mid-September,” if the shots are cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Jha said he hoped the booster would be available to adults, whether or not they’ve had previous boosters, and regardless of whether they’ve been recently infected. But it will be the FDA and CDC who will ultimately set the criteria for which age groups will be eligible for the booster.
The new Omicron booster will be what is known as a bivalent injection, designed against the original coronavirus strain and the BA.5 Omicron subvariant.
“These are substantial improvements to our vaccines, in terms of their ability to prevent infection, to prevent transmission, certainly to prevent serious illness and death,” Jha said.
“So it’s going to be very important that people this fall and winter get the new vaccine. It is designed for the virus that is out there. And again, based on everything we’ve seen so far, all the data suggests that it should be highly effective against new variants,” said Jha.