US health officials agreed to buy 105 million COVID vaccine doses for fall campaign

WASHINGTON — U.S. health officials said Wednesday they have agreed to purchase an additional 105 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine pending a fall booster campaign.

The $3.2 billion deal announced by the Biden administration comes as federal scientists consider how to update vaccines to better protect Americans from the rapidly evolving virus.

Federal officials said the purchase agreement includes the option to purchase a total of 300 million doses, including a mix of doses for both adults and children.

The first shots were expected to be delivered by early fall, pending a decision by the Food and Drug Administration to approve new versions of the shots.

A decision from the FDA is expected in the coming days after a Tuesday meeting in which outside advisors recommended modifying the vaccines to better target the omicron variant.

Current vaccines maintain strong protection against hospitalization and death, but their ability to block infections declined significantly when omicron appeared.

It’s not yet clear who would receive a modified booster — they may only be recommended for older adults or those at high risk for the virus. But once the FDA has made a decision on the prescription change, Pfizer and competitor Moderna will have to seek approval for the appropriate updated doses, time for health authorities to determine a fall strategy.

Wednesday’s announcement came as Congress stuck with more than billions in funding requested by the Biden administration to buy additional vaccines, tests and drugs to fight the pandemic.

House and Senate lawmakers have argued for weeks over how to resolve the stalemate. Funding for Pfizer’s latest purchase comes from reallocated funds from past COVID-19 relief packages, officials said.

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