FDA recommends Pfizer, Moderna update their COVID boosters to target omicron subvariants

More COVID-19 boosters from Pfizer and Moderna are coming this fall, and they'll likely feature a notable difference from existing vaccines.

On Thursday, the FDA recommended that vaccine manufacturers add omicron BA.4 and BA.5 spike protein components to their current vaccine compositions to create a two-component booster. The agency said the companies shouldn't make changes to their primary vaccine series, as the primary doses provide a “base of protection” against serious outcomes from COVID, the FDA said.

The FDA's decision came two days after the agency’s panel of independent vaccine experts voted 19-2 to recommend updating COVID-19 booster shots.

Results from post-authorization studies have shown that current vaccines and boosters provide waning protection over time against variants including omicron, according to the FDA.

Still, the agency reassured the public that “any COVID-19 vaccine authorized or approved by the FDA will meet our standards for safety and effectiveness.” The FDA asked manufacturers to begin clinical trials of modified boosters and continue collecting data on boosters containing the BA.1 subvariant.

The government's goal is for the updated vaccines to be used starting in the fall of this year. Thursday, Pfizer said a shot aimed at the chosen variants could be ready for use in early October. Moderna has forecasted a launch date of October or early November, The New York Times reports.

Just yesterday, Pfizer and vaccine partner BioNTech unveiled a new vaccine supply agreement with the U.S. government, committing to supply an additional 105 million vaccine doses. The doses “may include” an adapted omicron vaccine, pending an FDA authorization, Pfizer said. The deal will garner the two companies $3.2 billion.