U.S. retail pharmacies are struggling to quickly administer COVID-19 vaccines in some places. "Vaccine seekers in some states face waits of days or weeks for doses as local health officials hustle to improve access to meet surging demand," reported The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on Friday.
CVS Health Corp. Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. and Walmart Inc., which are facing staffing shortages, now say they may not be able to accommodate people without appointments.
Millions of Americans are newly eligible for booster shots, and federal health officials in November recommended the vaccine for use in children as young as five years old. Concerns about the risks posed by the new Omicron variant also are driving more people to get vaccinated, health officials were quoted as saying.
The United States was averaging about 1.5 million doses administered a day for a seven-day period as of Nov. 17, a nearly 12 percent increase from the previous week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Many vaccination and booster shot combinations appear to increase people's protection against the coronavirus, but Pfizer's and Moderna's shots -- both based on mRNA technology -- may work best, according to a new study.
"The results lend weight to 'mix-and-match' booster shots, which the United States' top public health official endorsed this fall," The Washington Post reported on Friday in evaluation of the study.
The study, published on Thursday in British journal the Lancet, examined people who were initially vaccinated against the coronavirus with either the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine or the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Researchers gave study participants a wide range of booster shots and found that almost all of those vaccines boosted immune responses, regardless of the first set of vaccines received, with Pfizer and Moderna in particular standing out.
Meanwhile, according to WSJ, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is laying the groundwork for the rapid review of Omicron-targeted vaccines and drugs if they turn out to be needed.
The agency, building on rules established earlier this year to assess shots and treatments, has been meeting with drugmakers and setting guidelines for the studies and data needed to swiftly evaluate products targeting the new Omicron COVID-19 variant, said the report.
"The FDA wants to be sure Omicron shots and therapies work safely and can be made correctly before authorizing their use, while moving as quickly as it can to conduct the assessment to aid efforts to stay ahead of the variant," it added.