Updated Aug 31, 2022 - COVID

Omicron booster doses are coming to Philly

Illustration of a person's arm with multiple bandaids on it.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The first updated COVID vaccines tailored to be more effective against the Omicron variant have received sign-off from the Food and Drug Administration, and Philly can expect shipments to begin next week.

What's happening: The FDA on Wednesday authorized Pfizer and Moderna's updated versions of the vaccines, which will ideally provide more targeted protection against the dominant BA.5 strain that's currently circulating.

  • Pfizer's dose is authorized for people ages 12 and older, while Moderna's is for adults ages 18 and older.
  • The shots are expected to become available after Labor Day.

Zoom in: Philadelphia has pre-ordered 11,000 Moderna and 30,000 Pfizer bivalent booster doses, Matt Rankin, a spokesperson for the city's Department of Public Health, told Axios.

  • The city is also processing orders from Philly health providers for those pre-ordered boosters.

The big picture: Being vaccinated and boosted is crucial for avoiding hospitalization and death, particularly for those with conditions that put them at high risk.

  • But it's unclear how well the retooled vaccines will protect against infection and transmission.

Between the lines: The reformulated mRNA shots got regulators' blessing without first being tested in humans, Axios' Tina Reed reports.

  • They are also the first to move ahead without an FDA advisory committee weighing in, marking a shift that more closely mirrors the annual flu shot approval process.
  • The Biden administration is prioritizing speed over having all the data on how the vaccines work in real life. Some experts warn that this could make some people leery about getting the reformulated shots.

By the numbers: Philadelphians don't seem too interested in boosters.

  • Roughly 36% of vaccinated adults in Philly have received a booster dose, according to city data.
  • Nationwide, around half of adults report being fully vaccinated and having received a booster dose, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

What we're watching: The FDA may recommend that people who recently received a vaccine dose wait "a few months" before getting a new shot, Peter Marks, the agency's top vaccine official, told the New York Times.

  • The CDC may address whether recently infected people should also wait.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to add information about the Food and Drug Administration's authorization of the updated vaccines Wednesday.

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