The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering advising people to seek annual vaccination akin to flu shots.
The FDA will reportedly adopt a vaccine schedule similar to the flu vaccine, recommending annual updates to combat the COVID-19 as new variants emerge, according to an anonymous federal official.
The agency currently recommends people seeking vaccination for COVID-19 receive a series of two initial vaccine doses separated by several weeks, along with a third booster at least two months later. The bivalent vaccine is currently tailored to the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
Most people will be advised to receive the latest version of the vaccine annually regardless of prior COVID-19 vaccination similar to influenza vaccines under the FDA’s new approach.
NEW: The FDA is considering a new approach that would simplify COVID vaccination guidance so that every fall, people would get a new shot updated to try to match the dominant variant.https://t.co/Wyt4hka8gD
— NPR (@NPR) January 23, 2023
“FDA anticipates conducting an assessment of SARS-CoV-2 strains at least annually and to engage VRBPAC in about early June of each year regarding strain selection for the fall season,” wrote the FDA in its briefing document, per NPR.
Updated vaccines would be also readied for use by September each year, according to the agency which noted should a more dangerous COVID variant were to emerge, it might reconsider the vaccine strain at other times of the year on an “as-needed and emergent basis.”
Simplifying vaccination process akin to flu vaccines is “appropriate” this late into the COVID-19 pandemic, according to some immunologists and vaccine researchers.
“As far as the tools that we have right now, I think it just makes the most sense to plan to update each year as close as we can to the currently circulating variant,” said one immunologist at the University of Arizona, Deepta Bhattacharya.
“So I think all the things the FDA is considering make a lot of sense.”
“We shouldn’t really be chasing these variants, which are evanescent and are often gone by the time you’ve created the vaccine,” said Dr. Paul Offit of the University of Pennsylvania noting difficulty in matching vaccines to latest COVID-19 variants.
“Even if you don’t have a booster that matches 100% what’s circulating, you will have a booster that matches 75% to 80% to 90% of what’s circulating,” said David Martinez, an immunologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. “And that will be good enough. It would probably benefit most people.”