The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agreed to purchase 66 million doses of Moderna’s updated COVID-19 vaccine booster to use in the fall, pending approval of the new formula.
In June, an expert committee recommended that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) update COVID-19 bivalent vaccines that will target both BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants, which account for nearly all cases.
“We must stay vigilant in our fight against COVID-19 and continue to expand Americans’ access to the best vaccines and treatments,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra in a statement. “As we look to the fall and winter, we’re doing just that — ensuring Americans have the tools they need to stay safe and help keep our nation moving forward.”
In addition to the 66 million Moderna doses, the U.S. government purchased 105 million bivalent COVID-19 booster doses from Pfizer for use this fall, if authorized by the FDA and recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Pending approval from federal health agencies, HHS would receive the first doses of Moderna and Pfizer vaccine boosters in the fall.
As of now, individuals who are 12 years and older who are immunocompromised and people 50 years of age and older are eligible for a second booster shot. Available booster shots were manufactured to target initial strains of the coronavirus.
Omicron BA.5 is currently the leading variant in the U.S., with the CDC reporting more than 85% of cases as BA.5 and 7% as BA.4. Health agencies have categorized both subvariants as more contagious than initial strains.
With the agreement from HHS and the government to purchase bivalent vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer, the U.S. will receive an estimated 171 million vaccine booster doses in the fall, if authorized. The agreements also include options for a total of 600 million doses — 300 million from each company — but only with additional funding from Congress, according to HHS.