The US plans to begin offering reformulated Covid-19 booster shots in September after jockeying by Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. moved up the time-lines for the vaccines, people familiar with the matter said.
The US has ordered a combined 171 million doses of next-generation vaccines the companies have developed in an attempt to provide more targeted protection to the most vulnerable and freshen up immunity for others who’ve gone nearly a year since their last booster.
The companies originally signaled that the shots would be ready in October, but — in a drive to compete for government orders — both ended up committing to earlier dates, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the negotiations. US officials now expect to start giving the shots out no later than mid-September.
The US announced Friday it bought 66 million doses from Moderna for up to $1.74 billion, roughly $26 a dose, after announcing in June a $3.2 billion order of 105 million doses from Pfizer, or $30 a dose.
That gives the US 171 million doses, which isn’t enough for all adults but may be enough to meet demand if it proves tepid. One person said eligibility will be opened widely immediately, while another said it’s likelier the most vulnerable will be prioritized.
About 107 million people have gotten at least one booster shot so far, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show.
With new versions of vaccines now due sooner, officials have decided to hold off on expanding eligibility of second booster shots before then.
Currently, only people age 50 and up — or those 12-49 who are at least moderately immunocompromised — are eligible for a second booster. Adults under 50 who are not immunocompromised remain are eligible for one booster.
The administration’s health experts have grappled with the decision about whether to open up availability of the original vaccine now as they wait on deliveries of the new formula.
Anthony Fauci, who serves as Biden’s medical adviser, and Ashish Jha, his Covid czar, have each signaled publicly that they favored the notion of more widespread boosters in the short term, but the Food and Drug Administration has been cool to the idea.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday that the shots would begin arriving in the “early fall” but that it’s too early to say who’d be eligible at first.
“Decisions about the shots and all the experts’ review, and the science, data, that’s going to be something that FDA and CDC does,” Jean-Pierre told reporters Friday. “We just don’t have anything currently, right now, to share.”
The September timeline was reported earlier by the New York Times.
Pfizer spokeswoman Jerica Pitts said the company will be ready to distribute in the fall, pending authorization. Moderna didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.