Wed | Feb 1, 2023

US proposes once-a-year COVID shots for most Americans

Published:Monday | January 23, 2023 | 2:11 PM
A nurse prepares a syringe of a COVID-19 vaccine at an inoculation station in Jackson, Mississippi on July 19, 2022. US health officials are proposing a simplified approach to COVID-19 vaccinations, which would allow most adults and children to get a once-a-year shot to protect against the mutating virus. The new system unveiled Monday, January 23, 2023, would make COVID-19 inoculations more like the annual flu shot. Americans would no longer have to keep track of how many shots they’ve received or how many months it’s been since their last booster. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — United States health officials want to make COVID-19 vaccinations more like the annual flu shot.

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday proposed a simplified approach for future vaccination efforts, allowing most adults and children to get a once-a-year shot to protect against the mutating virus.

This means Americans would no longer have to keep track of how many shots they've received or how many months it's been since their last booster.

The proposal comes as boosters have become a hard sell.

While more than 80% of the US population has had at least one vaccine dose, only 16% of those eligible have received the latest boosters authorised in August.

The FDA will ask its panel of outside vaccine experts to weigh in at a meeting Thursday.

The agency is expected to take their advice into consideration while deciding future vaccine requirements for vaccine makers.

In documents posted online, FDA scientists say many Americans now have “sufficient preexisting immunity” against the coronavirus because of vaccination, infection or a combination of the two.

That baseline of protection should be enough to move to an annual booster against the latest strains in circulation and make COVID-19 vaccinations more like the yearly flu shot, according to the agency.

For adults with weakened immune systems and very small children, a two-dose combination may be needed for protection. FDA scientists and vaccine companies would study vaccination, infection rates and other data to decide who should receive a single shot versus a two-dose series.

FDA will also seek input on switching all vaccines to target the same strains. That step would be needed to make the shots interchangeable, doing away with the current complicated system of primary vaccinations and boosters.

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