Everyone over 12 expected to be eligible for new boosters, White House official says

White House Covid coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said on Wednesday that the newly updated Covid boosters will be available to teens and adults “in a few short weeks.”

“I believe it’s going to be available and every American over the age of 12 will be eligible for it,” Jha told NBC News’ Lester Holt.

The new boosters target the omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, as well as the original strain of the virus. BA.5 accounts for nearly 90% of new Covid cases in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Food and Drug Administration will determine how well the updated shots protect against the virus, Jha said, adding that he expects that they should “work much better at preventing infection transmission and serious illness” than the current boosters.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical advisor, told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Thursday that he expects that the updated booster should provide stronger protection against any new variants that may emerge in the near future.

When should you get another booster?

Currently, adults ages 50 and up, as well as the immunocompromised, are eligible for a second booster four months after receiving their first.

With the new shots coming soon, should eligible people get their next shot now, or wait for the updated versions?

At first glance, when to get your next shot may seem straightforward: Waiting sounds like a reasonable option because the redesigned boosters should provide the best level of protection against the dominant circulating forms of the virus.

But it’s become an increasingly complicated question in a country where vaccine uptake has varied considerably and people carry different levels of risk.

Many eligible people in the U.S. are vaccinated but have not received a booster shot. Some are double-boosted. Confounding matters further is whether a person has been infected or reinfected.

The level of immunity across the country is “strikingly different now than it was just a year ago,” Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases specialist at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said.

To make matters even more confusing, if people get their next shot early this fall, there is some concern among scientists about whether they’ll still have enough immune protection against the virus during the winter months when Covid cases are expected to rise again.

Research has shown that antibodies generated from the existing vaccines begin to decline after only a few months.

“There’s not a clear-cut answer,” said Dr. Katherine Poehling, a vaccine expert and pediatrician at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist in North Carolina. Timing your next vaccine, she said, is about as tricky as “timing the stock market.”