The new doses are expected to roll out in the United States in the upcoming weeks, but it is still unclear when will they reach Qatar.
New versions of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Covid-19 vaccine booster shots have been given the green light by the US Food and Drug Administration to tackle the spread of the recently-discovered Omicron variant.
The FDA’s recent move modifies the formulation of shots produced by Pfizer and rival Moderna, which have already saved millions of lives. The modified boosters are expected to prevent yet another winter surge and aid in slowing the spread of the ‘cousin’ of BA.5 omicron.
“The public can be assured that a great deal of care has been taken by the FDA to ensure that these bivalent Covid-19 vaccines meet our rigorous safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality standards for emergency use authorisation,” said Dr. Peter Marks, the agency’s top vaccine regulator, in a statement.
The new versions are expected to roll out in the US in the upcoming weeks for those who are 12 years and older for Pfizer and 18 and older for Moderna, according to local news.
However, it is still unclear when the updated shots will arrive in Qatar, where health authorities have reported a significant drop in cases in the last few weeks.
According to the FDA, as long as two months have passed since a patient’s last shot, those who have received the two-dose primary series of either vaccination or those who have had the first two doses plus one or two boosters, are eligible for the updated booster shots.
“In terms of trying to stave off serious outcomes and symptomatic disease, one needs to refresh the immune system with what is actually circulating,” said Marks. “We believe the benefits of receiving a boost now at least two months after are going to outweigh the risks,” the statement added.
The US government has purchased 66 million doses of Moderna and 105 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine. However, despite the recent FDA approval, the boosters still need to overcome one more obstacle before being made available to the general public.
The suggestion regarding how the shots should be administered still needs to be made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the organisation will cast its vote on Thursday, and if accepted, the shots may start to roll out across the US the following week.
“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,” said FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf in a statement.
It is important to note that for those who are generally healthy, the initial round of shots continues to provide protection against serious illness and death from the virus, especially if patients have also received the crucial first booster dose.
Beyond a brief increase in antibodies capable of fighting off an omicron infection, it is still unclear how much further help an updated booster will offer, experts say.