US Proposes Switching to Annual COVID Vaccine Shots

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is proposing switching to an annual COVID-19 vaccination campaign for the country, similar to the flu shot.

In documents posted online Monday, the agency said the new strategy would provide a simplified approach to the coronavirus vaccine. The proposed plan is set to be discussed at a meeting this week of FDA scientists and the agency’s panel of external vaccine advisers.

The FDA said most Americans would need only one annual vaccination to help protect them against the coronavirus, while others — including the elderly, the very young and those with weakened immune systems — might need a two-dose inoculation for additional protection.

Under the current vaccination system, a person must get two doses of the original COVID-19 vaccine, which targets the coronavirus that emerged in 2020. Following that, booster shots have been recommended at periodic intervals, with the latest boosters targeting both the original virus and the omicron variant.

The proposed FDA changes would do away with the system of primary vaccinations and boosters and would instead recommend for most Americans a single vaccine dose that is developed annually.

As with the flu shot, vaccine makers and independent experts would aim to develop a shot that targets the virus strains most likely to dominate in the winter season. The targeted strains could be changed every year.

The FDA is also considering making the shots interchangeable, so people would not have to keep track of which vaccine brand they receive.

The agency is hoping the changes will make it easier for Americans to continue with their COVID inoculations amid a waning interest from the public to receive repeated booster shots.

While more than 80% of the U.S. population has had at least one vaccine dose, only 16% of eligible Americans have received the latest booster shot, according to The Associated Press.

The proposed FDA changes also come as experts have been publicly debating how effective the latest booster shots have been at increasing protection against COVID-19, especially in healthy adults.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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