WASHINGTON — COVID-19 vaccines will largely become an annual vaccination akin to the flu shot, President Joe Biden said Tuesday as his administration urged Americans to seek out newly authorized booster shots tailored to fight the omicron subvariants that are now dominant.
"As the virus continues to change, we will now be able to update our vaccines annually to target the dominant variant," Biden said in a statement. "Just like your annual flu shot, you should get it sometime between Labor Day and Halloween."
Health officials held a briefing Tuesday after regulators cleared the new generation of coronavirus inoculations and threw open eligibility — calling on people age 12 and older to get another dose if they haven't had one in the past two months.
COVID-19 vaccinations will likely shift to an annual injection — tailored to the latest strains — for the majority of the population, with more frequent doses offered for higher-risk people, the officials said. The latest version of the vaccine — the first approved in almost two years — will be available at pharmacies and doctors' offices beginning this week.
Still, Anthony Fauci, a Biden COVID-19 adviser who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned that a sharp change in the virus could alter the interval at which doses are deployed.
"If a wild card variant comes in, all bets are off," Fauci said, referring to the protection currently offered by the modified vaccines produced by Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc.
Ashish Jha, who serves as Biden's COVID-19 czar, said officials expect people to get boosters throughout the fall, in routine doctor visits or at the same time as they receive a flu shot. The modified boosters will be widely available by the end of this week.
Jha called on Congress to allocate new funding to continue the availability of vaccines and treatments to fight the virus. "It is now critical that you step up and provide additional COVID-19 funding so that we can stay ahead of this virus," Jha said.
Minnesota appointments available
Appointments for the new "bivalent" COVID-19 boosters are available at state-run vaccination sites at the Mall of America (make an appointment here) starting Sept. 7 and Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center (make an appointment here) starting Sept. 11. Additional state sites will open in coming days.
Pharmacies also are making appointments available. Minnesota health care systems, local public health and tribal health agencies, and other health care providers will have appointments available as well. Check here.