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Biden admin may offer 2nd Covid booster shot to all adults due to BA.5 subvariant

The plan comes amid a rise in hospitalizations driven by the new version of omicron.
A woman receives COVID vaccine as a booster dose at Skippack Pharmacy in Schwenksville, Pa., on Aug. 14, 2021.
A woman receives a Covid booster shot at Skippack Pharmacy in Schwenksville, Pa., on Aug. 14, 2021. Hannah Beier / Reuters via Alamy file

The Biden administration is considering a plan that would allow all adults to get a second Covid booster shot, according to a person with knowledge of the plan.

The plan stems from concerns from White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci and other top Biden administration officials about the current rise in hospitalizations, fueled by the extremely contagious omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, the person said.

White House Covid coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha did not confirm the administration would adopt such a plan during a briefing on Tuesday, but said federal health officials have been discussing the possibility of offering boosters for all adults "for a while."

"We have conversations all the time about what are possible things we can be doing to better protect the American people," Jha said. Ultimately, he said such decisions are up to the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Covid hospitalizations have been rising modestly across the United States as the subvariants continue to make up a greater proportion of new cases.

BA.4 and BA.5 — considered the most contagious forms of the virus to date — made up more than 80% of all new Covid cases in the U.S. for the week ending July 9, according to the CDC.

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The Washington Post first reported the news that the administration is considering a second booster. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The plan has not yet been finalized and could change, the person said. As Jha also noted, any changes would still need the FDA and the CDC to sign off.

Federal health regulators in late March signed off on a second Covid booster for people ages 50 and older and immunocompromised individuals amid a rise in cases caused by an earlier omicron subvariant, called BA.2.

Only about 30% of people eligible for a second booster have received it, according to CDC data.

Experts at that time said health officials may have a hard time persuading people to get a second booster because Covid cases and hospitalizations were low.

For those currently eligible for a booster, Jha said getting one now would not preclude a person from getting another shot that may target BA.4 and BA.5 this fall or winter.

"For people who are 50 years of age or older, my message is simple," Jha said. "If you've not gotten a vaccine shot this year, go get one now."

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