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January 24, 2023 – Is the move to an annual COVID-19 take a smart move? The FDA, which offers Monday’s change, says an annual shot versus periodic boosters could simplify the process to ensure more people stay immunized and protected against serious COVID-19 infection.

A national advisory committee plans to vote on the recommendation on Thursday.

If accepted, the vaccine formula would be decided each June and Americans could begin receiving their annual vaccine COVID-19[feminine] vaccinated in the fall, like your annual flu shot.

Keep in mind: Older Americans and those who are immunocompromised may need more than one dose of the annual COVID-19 vaccine.

Most Americans aren’t up to date with their COVID-19 boosters. Only 15% of Americans have received the final booster dose, while nine in 10 Americans ages 12 or older have completed their primary vaccine series. The FDA, in briefing materials for Thursday’s meeting, says the issues getting vaccines into people’s arms make this a change worth considering.

Given these complexities and the available data, consideration should be given to moving to a single vaccine composition for primary and booster vaccinations,” the agency states.

an annual Covid-19 vaccine might be simpler, but would it be as effective? WebMD asks health experts your most pressing questions about the proposal.

Advantages and disadvantages of an annual shot

According to Leana Wen, MD, professor of public health at George Washington University and former Baltimore health commissioner, having an annual COVID-19 vaccine, alongside the flu vaccine, could allow doctors and healthcare providers to more easily share vaccination recommendations and reminders. .

“It would be easier [for primary care doctors and other health care providers] to encourage our patients to get a series of annual vaccines, rather than counting the number of boosters or having two separate vaccines that people have to get,” she says.

“Employers, nursing homes and other facilities could offer both injections together, and a combined injection may even be possible in the future.”

Despite the greater convenience, not everyone is enthusiastic about the idea of ​​an annual COVID vaccine. COVID-19 doesn’t behave the same way as the flu, says Eric Topol, MD, editor of Medscape, WebMD’s sister site for healthcare professionals.

Trying to mimic the flu vaccination and having a year of protection from a single COVID-19 vaccination “isn’t based on science,” he says.

Carlos del Rio, MD, of Emory University in Atlanta and president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, agrees.

“We would like to see something simple and similar like the flu. But I also think we have to have the science to guide us, and I think the science isn’t necessarily there right now. I look forward to seeing what the advisory committee, the VRBAC, will debate on Thursday. Based on the information I’ve seen and the data we have, I’m not convinced that this strategy makes sense,” he says.

“One thing we have learned from this virus is that it throws curve balls frequently, and when we make a decision, something changes. So I think we continue to do research, we follow the science and we make decisions based on science and not what is most practical. »

COVID-19 is not seasonal like the flu

“The flu is very seasonal, and you can predict the months it’s going to hit here,” Topol says. “And as everyone knows, COVID is a year-round problem.” He says it’s less about a particular season and more about times when people are more likely to congregate indoors.

So far, European officials are not considering an annual COVID-19 vaccination schedule, says Annelies Zinkernagel, MD, PhD, of the University of Zurich and president of the European Society for Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases .

As for seasonality, she says, “What we know is that in closed venues in the United States and Europe, we can get more people. And if you’re more indoors or outside, it definitely makes a big difference.

Which variant(s) would it target?

In deciding which variants an annual COVID-19 vaccine will attack, one possibility could be for the FDA to use the same process used for the flu vaccine, Wen says.

“At the start of flu season, it’s always a matter of guessing which strains of flu will be dominant,” she says.

“We cannot predict the future of variants that may develop for COVID, but the hope is that a recall would provide broad coverage against a wide range of possible variants.”

Topol agrees that’s hard to predict. A future with “new viral variants, possibly an entirely new family beyond Omicron, is uncertain.”

Read it FDA Information Document “For me, it was depressing, and it’s just a retread. There is no aspiration to do bold things,” says Topol. “I would much rather see an aggressive push for next-generation vaccines and nasal vaccines.”

To provide the longest protection, “the annual vaccine should target the currently predominant circulating strains, without too much delay before the booster is given,” says Jeffrey Townsend, PhD, professor of biostatistics and ecology and evolutionary biology at the Yale School of Public Health.

“Just like the flu vaccine, there may be years the vaccine may be less useful, and some years the vaccine may be more useful,” he says, depending on how the virus develops over time and where or the strains targeted by the vaccine. “On average, the boosters updated each year should provide the protection predicted by our analysis.”

Townsend and his colleagues published a prediction study on January 5, in the Journal of Medical Virology. They look at both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines and how much protection they would provide over 6 years based on regular vaccinations every 6 months, annually or for longer periods between injections.

They report that an annual booster with the Moderna vaccine would provide 75% protection against infection and that an annual Pfizer vaccine would provide 69% protection. These predictions take into account new variants emerging over time, Townsend says, based on the behavior of other coronaviruses.

“These infection control percentages may seem significant in reference to the last 2 years of the pandemic with the massive outbreaks of infection that we have experienced,” he says. “Keep in mind that we are estimating possible endemic risk in the future, not pandemic risk.”

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