Chris Schulz Published

New Booster Approval, Distribution Expected Early Next Month

A volunteer received a shot of the experimental Moderna vaccine against COVID-19 in March as part of a safety study.

State leaders are eyeing early September for the approval of the latest COVID vaccine boosters.

During Thursday’s pandemic press briefing, state coronavirus czar Dr. Clay Marsh gave a potential timeline for the approval and distribution of a bivalent COVID vaccine booster, designed to target the virus’ omicron subvariants.

Bivalent refers to the vaccine’s ability to target two strains of COVID-19: the original variant, as well as the omicron strain.

“The omicron variant of COVID-19 is the critical form of COVID-19 that is causing cases in West Virginia as well as in the country,” Marsh said.

He said the drug’s approval is expected after the Food and Drug Administration meets in early September, with approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention following shortly after.

“Therefore, fairly soon after Labor Day, we should start to see the availability of the new omicron-specific booster shots that will be available,” Marsh said. “At least at this point, it looks like for the first wave the indications will be West Virginians and Americans over 65 years old.”

However, in response to a question later in the press conference, Marsh said that distribution could expand to other age groups depending on federal guidance.

“We understand the demographic, important age grouping and the impact of age, pre-existing health problems, immunosuppressed status has in having a higher risk of getting severely ill, hospitalized or dying with COVID-19,” Marsh said. “Of course we will try to make sure we adhere to FDA and CDC guidelines, but we also will internally prioritize the groups that we want to make sure have immediate access to the vaccine.”

During Tuesday’s press briefing, Ret. Maj. Gen. Jim Hoyer said West Virginia placed its first order for the bivalent vaccine on Monday, and expected to place another order next week.

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting with support from Charleston Area Medical Center and Marshall Health.