The Food and Drug Administration on Monday proposed approaching COVID-19 vaccines, such as the annual flu shot many Americans get, to protect against mutations of the virus.
The proposal aims to simplify future vaccination efforts. Under this strategy, most adults and children would receive an injection once a year to protect against the mutating virus. They no longer have to keep track of how many injections they have received or how many months it has been since their last booster.
In documents posted online, FDA scientists say many Americans now have “sufficient pre-existing immunity” to the coronavirus due to vaccination, infection or a combination of the two.
That baseline of protection should be enough, the agency says, to move to an annual booster against the newest strains in circulation and make COVID-19 vaccinations more like the annual flu shot.
The FDA will also ask its panel to vote on whether all vaccines should target the same strains. That step would be necessary to make the injections interchangeable and to do away with the current complicated system of primary vaccinations and boosters.
Pfizer and Moderna’s first shots are aimed at the strain of the virus that first emerged in 2020 and swept the world. The updated boosters launched last fall were also tweaked to target Omicron family members that were dominant.
Under the FDA’s proposal, the agency, independent experts and manufacturers would decide annually which strains to target by early summer, giving several months to produce and launch updated shots before fall. That’s pretty much the same approach that has long been used to select the strains for the annual flu shot.
More than 80% of the US population has had at least one dose of vaccine, but only 16% of those eligible have received the last boosters approved in August.
Ultimately, FDA officials say moving to an annual schedule would make it easier to promote future vaccination campaigns, which could ultimately increase vaccination coverage across the country.
The FDA will ask its panel of outside vaccine experts to weigh in at a meeting later this week.
The The Bharat Express News contributed to this report.