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CDC director endorses Moderna, Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine boosters targeting omicron

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday endorsed reformulated COVID-19 booster shots developed by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, hours after an influential panel made a recommendation.

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Updated 7:45 p.m. EDT Sept. 1: The decision by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky to endorse the boosters came shortly after the agency’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices made its recommendation.

“They can help restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination and were designed to provide broader protection,” Walensky said in a statement.

The endorsement means booster shots could be administered within days, CNN reported.

Update 6:01 p.m. EDT Sept. 1: A panel of U.S. health advisers voted to endorse Pfizer’s updated COVID-19 boosters that target the newest omicron strains for people 12 and older.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices also voted to recommend Moderna’s version of the booster, exclusively for adults, according to The Associated Press.

The ACIP vote was 13-1 in favor of the endorsement, CNN reported.

“I think they’re going to be an effective tool for disease prevention this fall and into the winter,” CDC adviser Dr. Matthew Daley of Kaiser Permanente Colorado.

“It is the same scaffolding, part of the same roof, we’re just putting in some dormers and windows,” said Dr. Sarah Long of Drexel University.

If the CDC accepts the endorsements, they will go to Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky for a final sign-off. If she approves, shots could be administered within days, CNN reported.

Original report: The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is scheduled to hear presentations about the new shots and to vote on whether to recommend them for use on Thursday afternoon.

The bivalent vaccines, which the Food and Drug Administration authorized for emergency use on Wednesday, protect against the original strain of COVID-19 and target two prominent subvariants of omicron. The shots target the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the omicron virus, which accounted for more than 90% of the COVID-19 cases seen in the U.S. from the week beginning Aug. 21, according to the CDC.

Teams have begun preparing to get the new boosters to Americans beginning after the Labor Day weekend, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday. She added that officials have spent months prepping to get new shots administered.

“With (the) FDA’s authorization, doses can be shipped now to tens of thousands of sites nationwide and shots in arms can start as soon as possible after CDC issues its recommendation later this week,” she said. “All states have ordered doses already. … Teams have already started the process of packing and shipping doses across the country.”

Officials with the FDA said that they have been preparing for the possibility that COVID-19 vaccines would need to be updated to best protect against the virus as new variants begin circulating. They urged people to get the new shots when they become available.

“The COVID-19 vaccines, including boosters, continue to save countless lives and prevent the most serious outcomes (hospitalization and death) of COVID-19,” FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf said Wednesday. “As we head into fall and begin to spend more time indoors, we strongly encourage anyone who is eligible to consider receiving a booster dose with a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine to provide better protection against currently circulating variants.”

As of last week, just over 79% of the U.S. population has gotten at least one dose of any of the available COVID-19 vaccines, according to the CDC. Over 67% of Americans have been fully vaccinated, and more than 48% of those who have been fully vaccinated have gotten at least one booster shot, CDC data shows.

Since the start of the pandemic, officials have confirmed more than 94.5 million COVID-19 infections and reported over 1 million deaths nationwide, according to numbers compiled by Johns Hopkins University. More than 603.1 million COVID-19 cases have been reported worldwide, resulting in 6.4 million deaths, according to the university.

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