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It’s that time of the year again. A new round of Covid shots has arrived in the U.S.
Earlier this week, U.S. health regulators greenlit updated mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna for everyone ages six months and up.
The shots are already available at some pharmacies and vaccine distribution sites in certain areas. But it will likely take a few days before appointments become widely available nationwide.
As the rollout of these shots begins, a lot of questions remain. The biggest one may be, how many people will actually go out and get an updated Covid vaccine this fall?
About 42% of people surveyed by the CDC in August said that they “definitely” or “probably” will get a new Covid vaccine this fall, according to an agency presentation this week. Other polls released this week have shown similar numbers.
But several health experts previously told CNBC that pandemic fatigue, the belief that Covid is “over,” and confusion over personal risk levels could discourage some people from getting an additional shot this fall.
So, it’s unclear if vaccine rates will look any better than uptake of the last round of shots from Pfizer and Moderna: Only about 17% of the U.S. population has received those jabs since they were approved a year ago, according to the CDC.
Uptake this fall is a huge deal for public health officials, especially after Covid hospitalizations increased for an eighth week in the U.S. Officials are hoping the new shots will help the nation avoid another severe Covid surge or “tripledemic” of Covid, flu and RSV this fall and winter.
But Americans’ willingness to roll up their sleeves is also crucial to manufacturers as the U.S. moves to an annual vaccination schedule. Pfizer expects vaccination rates this fall to “define what is the potential of these vaccines for the years to come,” company executives said during a second-quarter earnings call.
And Moderna’s full-year revenue guidance of $6 billion to $8 billion this year depends on how many Americans take the updated Covid shot from September to December, executives said during the company’s second-quarter call. The Covid vaccine remains Moderna’s only commercially marketed product.
Uptake may be an even bigger deal for Novavax, which raised doubts about its ability to stay in business earlier this year.
The company is banking on the launch of its own updated Covid shot, along with other efforts, to help it stay afloat. But the FDA is still reviewing Novavax’s vaccine, which means it will likely reach Americans slightly later than jabs from Pfizer and Moderna.
Vaccine uptake – and whether Novavax scores approvals from U.S. regulators – is something we’ll be watching closely over the next few weeks.