Updated COVID boosters ready in U.S. this week, White House says

WASHINGTON, Sept 6 (Reuters) – New COVID-19 boosters aimed at fighting currently circulating variants of the coronavirus will be widely available this week, U.S. health officials said on Tuesday, adding that the vaccine is moving closer to an annual jab, as with flu shots.

By the end of this week, 90% of Americans will live within five miles (8 km) of sites carrying updated vaccines, U.S. health secretary Xavier Becerra said at a briefing hosted by the White House.

They will remain available at no cost, White House COVID Response Coordinator Ashish Jha told reporters.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky said even with the seven-day average of COVID hospitalizations down 14% to 4,500 per day, the new shots could help prevent as many as 100,000 hospitalizations and 9,000 deaths per year.

Officials said people could get the COVID boosters this fall and winter alongside their regular annual flu shots.

The redesigned boosters, green-lighted by U.S. health regulatory agencies last week, aim to tackle the BA.5 and BA.4 variants of the novel coronavirus that the CDC said now account for 88% and 11% of circulating COVID-19 viruses respectively. read more  The so-called bivalent vaccines also still target the original version of the virus.

While regulators have backed COVID boosters for those aged 12 and older read more , Jha told reporters at the briefing it was not yet clear when they could be approved for younger children.

Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein and Susan Heavey; Editing by Chris Gallagher and Bill Berkrot

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Source: Reuters