(HealthDay News) — The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has asked its vaccine advisory committee to consider a proposal to turn COVID-19 vaccines into an annual shot for most Americans.
The goal is to simplify future vaccination efforts, as past efforts to promote COVID-19 booster shots have fallen short of expectations. While more than 80% of Americans have had at least 1 dose of the original COVID-19 vaccines, only 16% of those older than the age of 5 years have gotten the updated booster shots that were approved last August, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will consider the FDA’s proposal at its January 26 meeting. If the committee recommends the concept be turned into policy and the FDA follows the recommendation, COVID-19 shots would likely become much like annual flu shots.
In documents filed with the committee, the FDA proposed that most people receive 1 dose of an approved or authorized COVID-19 vaccine and 2 doses be given to the very young, seniors, and those who are immunocompromised. In its proposal, the FDA suggested an annual vaccine approval system similar to the one used for the flu.
The FDA wants to switch all COVID-19 vaccines to target the same strains of SARS-CoV-2 because that would make the shots interchangeable and easier to administer.
The FDA proposed initially using the updated bivalent booster shots, which contain 2 mRNA components of the SARS-CoV-2 virus — 1 of the original strain of SARS-CoV-2 and 1 in common between the BA.4 and BA.5 lineages of the omicron variant. The original strain and the BA.4 variant are no longer circulating in the US, and the BA.5 variant makes up 2% of recorded COVID-19 cases, according to CDC data.
“The FDA anticipates conducting an assessment of SARS-CoV-2 strains at least annually and to engage [the vaccine advisory committee] in about early June of each year regarding strain selection for the fall season,” the proposal states. “Subsequently, a decision on the recommended vaccine composition would be made in time for any updated vaccine to be in production in time to be deployed for use no later than September of each calendar year.”