U.S. Orders Omicron-Specific Covid-19 Vaccine Shipment for Big Fall Push

U.S. Orders Omicron-Specific Covid-19 Vaccine Shipment for Big Fall Push
A 3-year-old sits on the lap of her mother and gets a high five from a nurse after receiving her first dose of the Pfizer covid-19 vaccination at UW Medical Centre on June 21, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo: David Ryder, Getty Images)

The U.S. federal government has reached a deal to pay pharmaceutical company Pfizer and its German-based partner BioNTech a t0tal of $US3.2 ($4) billion for 105 million doses of covid-19 vaccine, according to statements from the companies. The doses are part of a fall campaign to get more people vaccinated in the U.S., a nation with the lowest covid-19 vaccination rate among all wealthy countries.

The large order with Pfizer includes vaccines that have been designed to specifically target the omicron variant of the disease, but shipment of those will depend on FDA approval, which is currently pending.

“As the virus evolves, this new agreement will help ensure people across the country have access to vaccines that may provide protection against current and future variants,” Albert Bourla, chairman and CEO of Pfizer, said in a statement published online.

Delivery of the 105 million doses are expected to start as early as “late summer,” according to Pfizer, with a push for new vaccinations occurring in the months after that. The concern, of course, is that covid-19 will likely see a new resurgence from already high numbers as the weather cools off and more people head indoors.

The U.S. reported 196,230 new cases of the disease on Wednesday and 693 deaths, according to the New York Times, numbers that would have been considered abnormally high at any other point in the past two years. But the pandemic is more or less just background noise to most Americans who seem to have gotten on with their lives. The U.S. has reported over 1.01 million deaths from covid-19 since the pandemic began, with more than 87.4 million cases.

And even though some Americans are still very concerned about the potential of dealing with “long covid,” the Biden administration has shown no appetite for continuing to fight the pandemic in any public way — at least in any way that’s more enthusiastic than buying vaccines. Thankfully, getting vaccinated does appear to cut the risk of getting long covid in half, according to a recent study out of the UK.

Just 67.3% of Americans are fully vaccinated against covid-19, right behind Sri Lanka (67.8%), Mozambique (68.1%), Iran (68.8%), according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.

“This agreement will provide additional doses for U.S. residents and help cope with the next COVID-19 wave. Pending regulatory authorization, it will also include an Omicron-adapted vaccine, which we believe is important to address the rapidly spreading Omicron variant,” Sean Marett, Chief Business and Chief Commercial Officer of BioNTech, said in a press release.

“We appreciate the continued partnership of the U.S. government in our shared goal to help end this pandemic,” Marett continued.

As Bloomberg News notes, Pfizer shares were up 0.6% after market close on Wednesday.