The BA.5 subvariant of omicron, which is dominant in the U.S. right now, is more resistant to antibody protection from vaccines and prior infection than earlier omicron strains.
That’s left some people wondering when they might be able to get another COVID-19 vaccine that targets omicron and its subvariants, Google Trends data show.
A VERIFY reader also asked the team when vaccines for the new COVID-19 variants will be available.
Will COVID-19 vaccine boosters for omicron be available to the public in 2022?
Yes, COVID-19 vaccine boosters for omicron will be available to the public in 2022. The FDA says omicron vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer could be available as early as September.
WHAT WE FOUND
Omicron vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer could be available as early as September 2022, a spokesperson for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) told VERIFY. Currently, the FDA is not considering authorizing a second booster dose for otherwise healthy adults under the age of 50 before that time in order to wait for the updated boosters.
In late June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it had advised vaccine manufacturers to develop modified shots with an omicron BA.4/BA.5 spike protein component to create two-component, or bivalent, boosters.
The FDA has not advised manufacturers to change the vaccine for primary vaccination, since the authorized and approved COVID-19 vaccines provide a “base of protection against serious outcomes of COVID-19” caused by circulating variants.
Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax have announced that they are developing COVID-19 vaccine booster doses specifically targeted for omicron and its subvariants.
Moderna announced on July 29 that the U.S. government purchased 66 million doses of its updated COVID-19 vaccine booster candidate, which contains the original Spikevax vaccine and mRNA from the omicron BA.4/BA.5 strain.
The company is also advancing another booster shot option that contains the BA.1 omicron strain. Several sublineages of omicron, including BA.1, BA.4 and BA.5, share some of the same mutations, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the U.S. government has also purchased 105 million COVID-19 vaccine boosters from Pfizer. This may include vaccines adapted for omicron, pending authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Pfizer said on June 29.
Pfizer’s omicron-adapted vaccine is a combination of its original shot and a vaccine targeting the BA.1 subvariant’s spike protein. During clinical trials, a booster dose induced a “substantially higher immune response” against the BA.1 subvariant when compared to the company’s current COVID-19 vaccine, Pfizer said.
The omicron vaccine boosters purchased by the U.S. government may be used in the fall or winter of 2022, pending FDA authorization, HHS said.
Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine is not yet FDA authorized as a booster shot, but the company does have an omicron shot in the works.
In late May, Novavax announced that it would begin phase 3 of another trial to determine the effectiveness of its omicron strain vaccine as a booster dose in producing better immune responses to the omicron variant compared to its newly authorized vaccine without a booster. The trial participants include people who have received either a two-dose primary series or three-dose booster series of an mRNA vaccine.
Adults who haven’t received their first booster dose, especially those who are at high risk of severe disease, should receive one soon since COVID-19 cases are rising, and not wait for an updated booster, the FDA says. Once boosters with an omicron component are available, people should consider getting one at an appropriate time following their prior booster shot.
Those who are 50 and older and haven’t received a second booster shot can still do so and receive an updated booster in the fall, according to the FDA.
“Receiving a booster now will not prevent individuals from receiving an updated booster following an appropriate interval between doses once the FDA reviews the variant-specific vaccines and authorizes them for use,” the spokesperson said.