(CNN) — US health officials have been in active discussions with the Food and Drug Administration on whether the agency will authorize a second booster vaccine for Americans under 50 years old, the nation’s top infectious disease expert shared Saturday.
“Hopefully we’ll get an answer reasonably soon,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN’s Laura Coates.
Second boosters have been authorized for US adults 50 and up, as well as certain people with weakened immune systems, since March. But for anyone under the age of 50, only one booster is authorized.
Fauci’s comments come amid a worrisome time in the pandemic for many across the country. Daily Covid-19 case rates have surged again and hospitalizations and deaths are also up, fueled by the Omicron offshoot BA.5, which experts have said is the most contagious variant yet.
Last week, the subvariant caused almost two out of every three new Covid-19 infections in the US, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky recently said while experts don’t yet know much about the severity of the variant, “we do know it to be more transmissible and more immune-evading.”
“People with prior infection, even with BA.1 and BA.2, are likely still at risk for BA.4 or BA.5,” she said.
Earlier this week, the White House Covid-19 response team urged Americans who were over 50 to get a second vaccine booster but had less to offer Americans under that age range, saying the FDA is considering second boosters for that age group.
As of the end of June, adults under 50 had the highest rates of Covid-19 cases compared to other age groups, according to preliminary data from the CDC.
Response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said FDA and CDC experts were “thinking about this and looking at the data.” And as they do, some Americans have expressed frustration at having to wait for the government to expand booster eligibility to younger adults.
In addition to staying up to date with vaccinations when eligible, Americans can also help bring down the levels of circulating virus by masking up and testing “so that you can keep people separated who are infected.”
“You cut down on that likelihood that you’re going to get new variants,” Fauci said Saturday. “And, in regard to the vaccines, it’s important that you try to not only get a booster but, as you get more variants, we’re going to be upgrading and updating the next level of boosters so that by the time we get to the fall, it is very likely we’ll have an updated booster that will address better the circulating variant at that time.”
On Friday, the Biden administration also extended the Covid-19 public health emergency (PHE), which will help “provide us with tools and authorities needed to respond to the highly transmissible Covid-19 subvariants that are currently circulating around the country,” one administration official told CNN.
“The PHE provides essential capabilities and flexibilities to hospitals to better care for patients, particularly if we were to see a significant increase in hospitalizations in the coming weeks,” the official said.
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