The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now offering annual COVID-19 shots to Americans.
On Monday, the FDA proposed a “simplification of the immunization schedule” where most adults and children would need to ‘switch’ the vaccine once a year to be ‘protected’ against Covid-19.
“The FDA anticipates that the simplification of the COVID-19 vaccine combination and annual immunization schedules will contribute to easier vaccine placement, fewer vaccine administration errors and less complex communication, all of which will lead to improved vaccine coverage rates and ultimately enhanced public health,” according to documents posted online Monday.
The agency added that people may only need a single dosage of the latest Covid-19 shot in the future to restore immunity, regardless of how many times they have been vaccinated in the past.
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On Thursday, the FDA will convene a meeting with its panel of outside vaccination experts to discuss the proposal.
Vaccine experts had mixed reactions.
Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Gregory Poland, a former member of the FDA’s expert advisory panel, says what annual vaccination hopes to achieve is the first thing it should do.
“They have to decide what the target is for the current use of vaccines,” said Poland, who studies how the body reacts to vaccines. “If it’s to prevent severe disease and death, we’re already there.”
Before considering going to annual boosters, they want to see data on how effective the current upgraded boosters are against the latest Omicron subvariants.
“The trotting data regarding efficacy precedes the BQ and XBB subvariants,” Poland said.
He said the committee will demand full transparency from the FDA and drugmakers as it weighs its decisions. He expressed deep concern that the agency had not shared all the data on bivalent boosters with the advisory committee in June.