White House coronavirus response coordinator Ashish Jha said Wednesday evening that updated COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be available in “a few short weeks” for everyone over the age of 12.
“The vaccines that are coming in a few short weeks are specifically designed for the virus that’s out there, and I believe it’s going to be available and every American over the age of 12 will be eligible,” Jha said on “NBC Nightly News.”
Earlier in the week, speaking at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation event, Jha said the updated vaccines could be available in “early to mid-September.”
The new vaccines specifically target subvariants of omicron that are currently circulating, known as BA.4 and BA.5, in addition to the original virus, which is expected to make them more effective.
The Food and Drug Administration instructed vaccine makers to make these updated vaccines at the end of June, and it will have to officially sign off on the new shots before they become available.
There remains a question of how many people will get the updated shots, given that uptake for boosters so far has lagged. Only about half of people with the first two shots got the first booster dose, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data.
The CDC has not officially changed the definition of “fully vaccinated” to include boosters, despite some experts’ calls, but Jha stressed on Wednesday that “two shots is not enough.”
“People need at least three,” he said. That is because the virus has evolved, and protection from the initial vaccines wanes over time.
“Just like the flu vaccine where people need to get updated once a year, we probably need to continue to get updated with COVID vaccines on an ongoing basis,” Jha said.