US buys 105 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine for fall

(Washington) – U.S. health officials on Wednesday said they have agreed to purchase an additional 105 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in anticipation of an increased campaign in the fall.

The $3.2 billion deal announced by the Biden administration comes as federal scientists are looking at how to update a vaccine to better protect Americans from the rapidly evolving virus. Federal officials said the deal includes the option to purchase a total of 300 million doses, including a mixture of doses for both adults and children.

The first shots will be delivered in early fall, pending a decision by the Food and Drug Administration to allow new versions of the shots. A decision from the FDA is expected in the coming days following Tuesday’s meeting in which external advisors recommend vaccine modification to better target the Omicron variant.

Existing vaccines still provide strong protection against hospitalization and death, but their ability to prevent infection declines markedly as Omicron emerges.

It’s not yet clear who will be offered a tweaked booster — they may only be recommended for older adults or those at high risk of contracting the virus. But once the FDA decides to change the formula, Pfizer and competitor Moderna will have to get permission for the appropriate updated dosages, time for health authorities to settle on a pricing strategy.

Wednesday’s announcement comes as Congress remains deadlocked over billions of dollars in funding requested by the Biden administration to buy more vaccines, tests and drugs to fight the pandemic. House and Senate lawmakers have argued for weeks over how to resolve the deadlock. The funding for the latest Pfizer purchase comes from money reallocated from previous COVID-19 relief packages, officials said.

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