Updated COVID-19 boosters have reached 4.4 million in the United States since a new revaccination campaign began three weeks ago, with government data showing vaccinations against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus have been slower than when the first boosters were released last year.
Earlier this week, the government said it had supplied 25 million samples of Omicron, mostly from Pfizer/BioNTech.
Production of similarly retooled Moderna shots has been slower because of what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cited as quality control problems at a contract manufacturing facility operated by Catalent Inc.
On Tuesday, the FDA said it had approved the use of some vaccines made from the plant. Last year, when the United States initially allowed COVID boosters only for the elderly and immunocompromised, nearly 10 million received their third shot in the first three weeks.
The latest data released late Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed increased interest in Omicron shots compared to demand for older boosters over the previous three weeks.
In those three weeks, about 930,000 people received booster shots of older vaccines available to people age 50 and older or those at risk of severe disease, according to the CDC.
Dr. Amesh Adaja, an infectious disease expert at the Johns Hopkins University Health Center, said he expects demand for the updated shots to be low “as it has been with the boosters since the beginning.” “I think it’s because this campaign and previous booster campaigns are driven by bad messaging, political issues, rather than focusing on where the accelerators will benefit,” he said. The focus should be on high-risk populations and those 65 and older, Adalya added.
The updated shots target the widely distributed omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, as well as the original version of the coronavirus that was included in all previous COVID vaccines.
Moderna was producing new amplifiers targeting Omicron’s old BA.1 subvariant when the FDA asked them to change course to address the currently dominant variants in the US market.