WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – New protection against the latest COVID variants should be available soon. The Food and Drug Administration approved variant-specific booster shots on Wednesday, but there are some concerns about the rollout.
The shots are specifically built to protect people from the dominant Omicron strains.
“These updated boosters present us with an opportunity to get ahead of the next predicated wave of covid-19,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf said.
Once the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives its approval, the shots could start going out as soon as next week.
It isn’t clear how effective they’ll be, because they haven’t been through human trials. However, that’s the same process used to update yearly flu shots.
“We’re very confident in the data used to support today’s actions,” FDA official Dr. Peter Marks said.
While many health officials are hailing this as an important step forward, there are concerns about the rollout.
The Biden administration says it’s running out of money for masks, tests and vaccines. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre says that’s because Congress didn’t pass more COVID funding.
“We’ve warned that the congressional inaction would force unacceptable trade-offs and harm our preparedness and response,” Jean-Pierre said.
Dr. Greg Poland with Mayo Clinic says that could have consequences for availability of the vaccine.
“If it moves to private pay or private insurance, that likely will decrease accessibility,” Poland said.
He also says one of his biggest concerns is that people aren’t using precautions anymore. He points to how many people rarely mask anymore and have continued to gather in crowds.
There’s also uncertainty about who will get the latest booster shots. Only about half of vaccinated Americans got the first booster shot.
Dr. Poland predicts coronavirus is here to stay.
“We will continue to have surges with yet newer variants,” Poland said.
Even now, hundreds of Americans are dying from COVID each day.
“With a highly contagious disease like this, none of us is safe until everyone is safe,” Poland said.