Biden administration officials say they want to make a second round of coronavirus booster shots available to all adults in an effort to slow a surge in the COVID-19 virus that has hospitalizations on the rise across the U.S.
The move comes as the White House says it is working to get ahead of the predicted increase in cases of the B.5 omicron subvariant. The subvariant of the virus, along with another subvariant, B.4, is responsible for more than 70% of all reported cases in the U.S. last week.
The administration wants the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to authorize a second booster shot for all adults.
“BA.5 is something we’re closely monitoring, and most importantly, we know how to manage it,” said Ashish Jha, the White House’s Covid-19 response coordinator.
Second boosters have been available for adults 50 and older since late March, as well as those age 12 and up who have weakened immune systems.
But adults younger than 50 are eligible for only one booster shot.
Currently, a second shot is available only to those 50 and older, as well as to those 12 and older who are immunocompromised.
With research indicating that not only does immunity wane several months after a booster shot, but that the new version of the omicron variant may be more effective at evading natural immunity, the administration is pushing to quickly expand eligibility for booster shots.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert, said the U.S. needs to “allow people who are under 50 to get their second booster shot, since it may have been months since many of them got their first booster.”
Fauci was diagnosed with COVID-19 last month but says he has recovered after having mild symptoms.
Two studies conducted in Israel on participants age 60 or older, showed that a fourth vaccine dose given at least four months after a third vaccine dose not only cut hospitalization and death rates from COVID-19 but the decrease in hospitalizations and deaths persisted.
Getting a fourth dose authorized for all adults is likely to happen, though getting adults to take a fourth dose may be more difficult.
Only 34% of eligible Americans have received a first booster dose.