The Food and Drug Administration will reportedly propose a new strategy for Covid-19 vaccinations on Monday that is likely to involve a simpler approach similar to annual flu vaccines, NPR reported, citing an unnamed federal official.
According to NPR, the FDA will outline its proposed strategy on Monday ahead of Thursday’s meeting of its Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, which will have to approve the proposal.
This new approach would reportedly forgo the existing process where people are first expected to receive two doses of the original vaccine—spaced a few weeks apart—followed by a bivalent booster two months later that has been formulated specifically to protect against more infectious variants.
It would instead recommend people get the latest formulation of the vaccine every fall, regardless of their prior vaccination history, similar to annual flu shots, NPR reported.
Under this process, new vaccines for fall would be developed over the spring to offer protection against what is expected to be the most prevalent strain later that year.
In a statement shared with Forbes, the FDA said the purpose of Thursday’s meeting is to consider “how and whether the composition for primary doses…should be modified” along with the “composition and schedule for booster doses” moving forward.
15.3%. This is the percentage of all Americans who have received a bivalent booster dose for Covid-19, according to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In comparison, nearly 70% of all Americans have received the primary two doses of the vaccine.
What We Don’t Know
It is unclear if the reported strategy will help boost vaccine uptake or if it will be effective in preventing widespread infections. The lower uptake of bivalent boosters—despite evidence that it offers better protection—indicates that an annual booster strategy may find significantly fewer takers. The efficacy of the reformulated boosters themselves will also likely be a question mark, as the shots will be developed long before the fall season, meaning the emergence of newer, more evasive variants could nullify their usefulness. To compare, 51.4% of Americans have taken their annual flu shots for the 2022-23 season, according to CDC estimates.
The CDC’s surveillance data on Covid variants highlight the challenge of developing a vaccine to keep up with newer variants and subvariants of Covid-19. In the last week of November, Omicron subvariant BA.5 was the most prevalent across the U.S. accounting for around 66% of all infections, while the XBB.1.5 variant stood at 0%. However, at present, XBB.1.5 accounts for nearly half of all U.S. infections, while BA.5 has shrunk to 2%.
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