Omicron-specific COVID-19 recall could arrive in a few weeks

The Omicron Specific COVID-19 Booster could be available within weeks, assuming federal agencies approve the new snap, a senior White House COVID-19 official said this week.

The recall had been eagerly awaited for months, especially since the last dominant sub-variant of Omicron, BA.5“looks really different in many ways from the original strain that we built the vaccines against,” Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, said this week during a forum with the American Chamber of Commerce.

“The good news is that our vaccines are still doing an amazing job of keeping people out of hospital, especially out of intensive care and worse,” Jha said. “But the impact of these vaccines on preventing infection has diminished over time because of this evolution” of the Omicron strain.

The new booster “should arrive in the next few weeks,” Jha said. They “will become available in early to mid-September,” if the US Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention authorize the injections.

Jha said he expected the booster to be available to adults, whether or not they had previous boosters, and whether or not they were recently infected. But it will be the FDA and CDC that will ultimately establish the criteria on which age groups will be eligible for the recall.

The new Omicron booster will be what is known as a bivalent shot, designed against both the original strain of coronavirus and the BA.5 Omicron sub-variant.

“These are substantial improvements in our vaccines, in terms of their ability to prevent infection, to prevent transmission, certainly to prevent serious illness and death,” Jha said.

“And so it will be very important that people this fall and winter get the new vaccine. It’s designed for the virus that’s out there. And, again, based on everything we’ve seen so far, all the data suggests it should be very effective against newer variants,” Jha said.