Pharmacies bracing for new COVID-19 booster demand

SEATTLE — On Wednesday, the U.S. authorized its first update to COVID-19 vaccines, booster doses that target today’s most common omicron strain. Shots could begin within days.

The move by the Food and Drug Administration tweaks the recipe of shots made by Pfizer and rival Moderna that already have saved millions of lives. The hope is that the modified boosters will blunt yet another winter surge — and help tamp down the BA.5 omicron variant that continues to spread widely.

“These updated boosters present us with an opportunity to get ahead” of the next COVID-19 wave, said FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf.

Boosters for the omicron variant still need to be approved by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee, but representatives with the Washington State Pharmacy Association said they expected an influx of interest in the new boosters very soon.

“It means a lot of people are going to be calling pharmacies, which bogs them down and makes their jobs harder,” said Jenny Arnold with Washington State Pharmacy Association.

KIRO 7 learned most pharmacies will likely get fewer than 100 doses to start.

As a result, pharmacists say it could be well into the fall before the vast majority of people qualify for the updated booster shot.

“When appointments aren’t available, it’s probably not a glitch in the system, it’s because not that many doses are available,” said Arnold.

According to the CDC, less than half of fully vaccinated Americans have received a first booster dose, and only a third have received a second.

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