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US health officials have agreed to buy 105 million doses of COVID vaccine for the fall campaign

WASHINGTON — U.S. health officials said Wednesday they have agreed to purchase an additional 105 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine ahead of a fall recall campaign.

The $3.2 billion deal announced by the Biden administration comes as federal scientists consider how to update vaccines to better protect Americans against the rapidly evolving virus.

Federal officials said the purchase agreement includes the option to purchase a total of 300 million doses, including a mix of adult and pediatric doses.

The first vaccines would be delivered in early fall, pending a decision from the Food and Drug Administration to authorize new versions of the vaccines.

A decision is expected from the FDA in the coming days following a meeting on Tuesday where outside advisers recommended changing vaccines to better target the omicron variant.

Current vaccines retain strong protection against hospitalization and death, but their ability to block infection dropped markedly when the omicron appeared.

It is not yet clear to whom a modified booster will be offered – they could be recommended only to the elderly or those at high risk of contracting the virus. But once the FDA decides on the recipe change, Pfizer and its competitor Moderna will have to seek authorization for the properly updated doses, the time for health authorities to agree on a fall strategy.

Wednesday’s announcement came as Congress remained stuck on billions in funding requested by the Biden administration to buy additional vaccines, tests and drugs to fight the pandemic.

House and Senate lawmakers have been arguing for weeks over how to resolve the impasse. Funding for Pfizer’s latest purchase comes from reallocated money from previous COVID-19 relief programs, officials said.

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