At least 4.4 million people have received an updated Covid booster since the beginning of the month, according to data released on Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That number represents about 1.5% of people currently eligible to receive the vaccines in the US.
The data does not include people who received updated boosters from Pfizer-BioNTech in Idaho and Texas, the CDC said, so it is likely an underestimate. The White House estimates the number to be closer to 5 million doses of the new booster, The Associated Press reports.
The CDC approved updated versions of Pfizer and Moderna’s booster shots on Sept. 1, and pharmacies and other vaccination sites began administering the new shots around Labor Day weekend. The bivalent injections target both the parent strain of the coronavirus and the currently circulating omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants.
dr Scott Roberts, an infectious disease specialist at Yale Medicine, called the relatively low uptake of the booster “demoralizing.”
“I would expect a much higher proportion of Americans to have received the booster by this point,” he said.
Roberts said that a lack of public awareness about injections or the prevailing narrative that the pandemic is ending could have prevented the vaccine from being released.
“The fact that this booster came out days before Biden said the pandemic was over is a huge mixed message,” he said. “Now it’s going to be much harder to convince people at risk who are hesitant to get a booster. ”
Still, the US has seen an increase in overall demand for Covid vaccines since the booster rollout began: The US is currently administering about 314,000 doses of the Covid vaccine per day, as Weekly average. That’s almost triple the number at the beginning of the month.
As of Tuesday, the US had Shipment of more than 25 million bivalent booster doses to tens of thousands of sites. The vast majority of the population now lives within 5 miles of a site that offers up-to-date vaccinations.
The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 12 get an updated booster, as long as it’s been at least two months since their last Covid vaccine. People who recently contracted Covid should wait at least until their acute illness is over, and the CDC says they can consider delaying their boosters until three months after symptoms began or since they first tested positive.
People can mix and match Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, but Pfizer’s updated booster is available for people ages 12 and up, while Moderna’s is limited to ages 18 and older.
Some pharmacies reported shortages of Moderna’s updated booster earlier this week. But CVS said Thursday that it has begun receiving additional doses of Moderna and expects more in the coming days and weeks. Walgreens said the availability of Moderna shots varies by location.
Nearly 80% of the US population has Received at least one injection of a primary Covid vaccineand the CDC considers nearly 68% to be fully vaccinated, meaning they received one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two shots from Pfizer, Moderna or Novavax, which was licensed in July.
However, Biden administration officials have pointed to the updated reinforcements as a critical step in leading the US out of the pandemic.
“For the first time since December 2020, these vaccines, our vaccines, have caught up with the virus,” Ashish Jha, White House Covid-19 response coordinator, said at a briefing earlier this month. .
Jha said the shots should provide better protection against infection and transmission, as well as longer-lasting protection against serious illness, compared to previous Covid vaccines.
But experts are still collecting real-world data, as the injections were distributed with no human trial results. Laboratory studies found that the thrusters generated strong antibody responses against BA.4 and BA.5, and data from human trials showed that a similar vaccine produced a strong antibody response against the initial omicron strain, BA.1.
Authorization of bivalent boosters for children ages 5 to 11 may take just a few weeks, says Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, at an event this week with the Project. of Education and Equity of Covid-19 Vaccines.
Public health officials expect to see another wave of Covid around Thanksgiving, and flu season tends to pick up in October, so the CDC says up-to-date Covid boosters and flu shots can be manage together.
If the pace of booster shots doesn’t pick up, Roberts said, the US could see an increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
“A lot of people certainly need a booster and this comes at a critical time,” he said. “We are entering the winter season when we expect cases to increase. At this time, many areas of the country continue to have high levels of circulating virus.”
Reuters other The Associated Press contributed.