US health officials want to makevaccinations more like the annual flu shot.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday proposed a simplified approach for future vaccination efforts, allowing most adults and children to receive a vaccine once a year to protect against the virus. mutant.
This means that Americans will no longer have to keep track of how many vaccinations they have received or how many months it has been since their last booster.
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The proposal comes when the boosters have become difficult to sell. While more than 80% of the US population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, only 16% of those eligible have received the last authorized boosters in August.
The FDA will ask its panel of outside vaccine experts to participate in a meeting on Thursday. The agency is expected to take their advice into account when deciding future vaccine requirements for manufacturers.
In documents posted online, FDA scientists say many Americans now have “sufficient pre-existing immunity” against the coronavirus due to vaccination, infection, or a combination of both. That baseline of protection should be enough to move to an annual booster against the latest circulating strains and make COVID-19 vaccines more like the annual flu shot, according to the agency.
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For adults with weakened immune systems and very young children, a two-dose combination may be necessary for protection. Scientists at the FDA and vaccine companies would study vaccination, infection rates, and other data to decide who should get a single injection versus a two-dose series.
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, ending the current complicated system of primary and booster shots.
The initial shots from Pfizer and Moderna, called the primary series, target the strain of the virus that first emerged in 2020 and spread rapidly across the globe. Updated boosters released last fall were also tweaked to target the omicron kin that had been dominant.
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Under the FDA proposal, the agency, independent experts and manufacturers would decide annually which strains to target in early summer, allowing several months to produce and release updated shots before fall. That’s pretty much the same approach that’s long been used to select strains for the annual flu vaccine.
Ultimately, FDA officials say moving to an annual schedule would make it easier to promote future vaccination campaigns, which could ultimately increase vaccination rates across the country.
The original two-dose COVID vaccines have offered strong protection against severe disease and death regardless of variant, but protection against mild infections is diminished. Experts continue to debate whether the latest round of boosters significantly improved protection, particularly for younger and healthier Americans.
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