FDA approves Pfizer and Moderna covid vaccines with new formula

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

The Food and Drug Administration has approved newly formulated covid vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. Unlike booster shots released in the past, this vaccine isn’t made with components of the original covid variants that spread in 2020. It’s a monovalent vaccine that targets an omicron subvariant instead, reports The New York Times, as advised by the FDA in June.

The new vaccines specifically address the omicron variant XBB.1.5, which became the dominant covid strain in certain parts of the US last winter and is more closely related to EG.5, which currently accounts for 21.5 percent of cases, according to CDC data.

Chart showing prevalence of covid variants based on CDC data, reported through August and with estimates into September.
Image: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National SARS-CoV-2 genomic surveillance program sequences a nationally representative selection of clinical respiratory specimens to identify and monitor the spread of variants.

While the FDA approved the vaccines for people 12 years of age and older, it has authorized the shots for emergency use for children between six months old and 11 years of age. As a result of the update, the previous boosters from Moderna and Pfizer are no longer authorized for use in the US.

The FDA notes that the updated vaccines are “expected to provide good protection against COVID-19 from the currently circulating variants,” adding that the “composition” of the shots may need an annual update going forward, similar to what we see with flu vaccines.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is set to discuss recommendations for the vaccine on Tuesday. If the CDC doles out its recommendations tomorrow, the vaccine could be available to the public by the end of this week.

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