Fast-tracked new COVID boosters could be bound for Michigan by next week
- The new vaccine protects against both the original coronavirus as well as the current omicron subvariants.
- Michigan continues to lag behind the nation in vaccinations, but those who are vaccinated tend to get boosters, too.
Hoping to blunt a fall surge of COVID, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday authorized two specially redesigned boosters.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still must clear the boosters. Its advisers are scheduled to meet Thursday and Friday, and both drugmakers have said they could deliver doses in September.
If all goes as expected, the doses could arrive in Michigan by early next week, Lynn Sutfin, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services told Bridge Michigan by email.
- Pfizer seeks approval for COVID shot this fall aimed at Omicron strains
- Michigan coronavirus dashboard: vaccines, cases, deaths and maps
The updated boosters — one by drugmakers Pfizer and BioNTech, and the other by Moderna — target BA.5, the subvariant now responsible for nearly all U.S. COVID infections.
Michigan is set to receive up to 189,900 Pfizer doses and 73,100 Moderna doses, and the state can order more later, Sutfin said. Additionally, Michigan pharmacists will receive vaccines through the federal pharmacy program.
When they’re available, the updated boosters can be found by visiting www.vaccines.gov.
The Pfizer booster is authorized for anyone 12 years and older; the Moderna booster is authorized for anyone 18 years and older. Individuals are eligible for a newly formulated booster two months or or more after they receive the initial vaccines or if they “have received the most recent booster dose,” according to the FDA announcement Wednesday.
The vaccines were fast-tracked and approved before they were fully tested on humans, prompting some concern among some scientists, but CDC officials said the risk of waiting would be producing an “outdated” vaccine.
The move comes as weekly COVID-19 cases are falling in Michigan, and well under the volume of infections during earlier waves. But the weather is beginning to cool, which is typically when cases increase as residents move inside and school resumes.
Last week, drugmakers New York-based Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, as well as Massachusetts-based Moderna, asked the FDA to authorize their latest COVID boosters. Previous boosters were additional doses of the original vaccines, and their effectiveness has waned as the virus has genetically changed.
It’s unclear if constantly tweaking the booster can stay ahead of the ever-changing virus — and whether the pandemic-weary public is in the mood for another shot.
Nearly 3 in 5 of those who have been vaccinated have had at least one booster dose in Michigan, but the overall vaccination rate lags the national rate.
Michigan ranks 34 among states and the District of Columbia for being fully vaccinated: a hair over 61 percent, compared to nearly 68 percent of the U.S. population.
That makes it even more important for the unvaccinated get their shots, said Joseph Eisenberg, infectious disease expert and chair of the epidemiology department at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.
“There's still a lot of people out there that, if presented with a vaccine, would take it,” he said.
As drugmakers learn more about the changing virus, they likely will be able to more quickly pivot to changes in the virus and to make their effectiveness last longer, he added.
Ultimately, new boosters will be as unremarkable as the flu vaccine that changes each year or a tetanus booster, he said.
Bridge reporter Mike Wilkinson contributed to this report.
We’ve been there for you with daily Michigan COVID-19 news; reporting on the emergence of the virus, daily numbers with our tracker and dashboard, exploding unemployment, and we finally were able to report on mass vaccine distribution. We report because the news impacts all of us. Will you please support our nonprofit newsroom?