US FDA green lights Omicron-targeted COVID-19 boosters

Food and Drug Administration building is shown Thursday, Dec 10, 2020 in Silver Spring, Md. (MANUEL BALCE CENETA / AP)

NICOSIA -The US Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday authorized updated COVID-19 booster shots from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna that target the dominant BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants, as the government prepares for a broad fall vaccination campaign that could begin within days.

The new vaccines also include the original version of the virus targeted by all the previous COVID shots.

The FDA authorized the shots for everyone ages 12 and older who has had a primary vaccination series and is at least two months out from a previous booster shot, shorter than prior recommended intervals.

Dr. Peter Marks, a senior FDA official overseeing vaccines, said he hopes the shots will restore the very good protection against symptomatic disease that the original vaccines offered when launched in late 2020 and early 2021."We don't know for a fact yet whether we will get to that same level, but that is the goal here," Marks said.

The government has begun working on the fall rollout, which could start soon after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) outside expert panel meets on Thursday and agency Director Rochelle Walensky makes a final recommendation.

People line up outside a COVID-19 walk-in clinic in Montreal, Canada, on Sept 29, 2020. (PAUL CHIASSON / THE CANADIAN PRESS VIA AP)


Canada’s most populous province, Ontario, said on Wednesday that residents can come out of isolation with a mask as soon as 24 hours after their COVID-19 symptoms dissipate, under a strategy to homogenize guidance for all respiratory illnesses.

Asymptomatic COVID-positive residents, as well as those who come in contact with an infected person, can go to work or school but they must wear a face mask for 10 days, the Ontario government said.

The province previously asked the public to isolate for five days from the onset of COVID symptoms.

The relaxation in guidance is possible thanks to “hybrid immunity” from vaccination and exposure to different coronavirus strains as well treatments like Paxlovid, Ontario’s chief medical officer, Kieran Moore, said at a briefing.

A health worker collects a swab sample from a woman at a COVID-19 testing center outside a municipal administration building in southern coastal city of Limassol, Cyprus, July 29, 2020. (PETROS KARADJIAS / AP)


Cyprus on Wednesday said it would end all restrictions on gatherings and the mandatory use of face masks in most areas after cases of COVID-19 were declining.

Effective Wednesday, all restrictions on public or private gatherings would be eased, while wearing face masks would only be compulsory in areas such as hospitals, care homes and on public transport, Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela said.

"After three years of the pandemic, I am happy to say we are significantly easing existing restrictions as epidemiological factors have markedly improved," he said in a statement.

Authorities still recommended face masks in areas of mass gatherings and for people to do self-tests once a week, he said.