(HealthDay News) — The US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) vaccine advisory panel has recommended that the FDA phase out the original versions of the COVID-19 vaccines in favor of the updated bivalent booster shots, NBC News reported.

The advisory panel also weighed a proposal to streamline the dosing schedule for COVID-19 vaccines by turning them into annual shots that would likely be given every fall. However, the panel did not vote on the proposal due to a lack of data regarding who should get those annual shots and exactly when they should do so.

Still, the panel members agreed that COVID-19 vaccines do need to become more routine to clear up public confusion and hopefully boost vaccination rates. Right now, more than 80% of Americans have had at least 1 dose of the original COVID-19 vaccines, but only 16% of those older than 5 years of age have gotten the bivalent booster shots that were approved last August, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Some advisory panel members said it was too soon to say whether annual doses are needed, as they are for the flu. The FDA has said the time is right for annual shots targeting the latest SARS-CoV-2 variants. However, Peter Marks, MD, the agency’s top vaccine regulator, acknowledged that it may not be possible to simplify the COVID-19 vaccine schedule to be exactly like the flu vaccine schedule.

Jerry Weir, MD, director of the Division of Viral Products at the FDA Office of Vaccines Research and Review, reassured panel members that even if COVID-19 vaccines were given annually, an emergency meeting would be called to discuss whether new boosters are needed if a new, dangerous variant suddenly emerged, NBC News reported.

NBC News Article