COVID-19 vaccines will likely go the way of flu shots in the future, with updated doses given annually, U.S. health officials said Tuesday.
“In the absence of a dramatically different variant, we likely are moving towards a path with a vaccination cadence similar to that of the annual influenza vaccine, with annual updated COVID-19 shots matched to the currently circulating strains for most of the population,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a White House briefing, NBC News reported.
Future booster updates would likely target whatever Omicron subvariant is spreading, both Fauci and White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Ashish Jha said during the briefing.
Omicron subvariants have been spreading since last December with small changes, but substantially the same behavior, and that has made public health experts feel more confident that an annual shot will suffice. People with underlying health issues may need more than one dose in a year, Fauci added.
“For the first time since December of 2020, these vaccines, our vaccines, have caught up with the virus,” Jha noted. “Barring those variant curveballs, for a large majority of Americans we are moving to a point where a single annual COVID shot should provide a high degree of protection against serious illness all year.”
It’s not clear yet how effective the new boosters — which target the Omicron subvariants BA.5 and BA.4 in addition to the original virus — being offered now are because the shots were reformulated based only on tests on mice. Right now, the BA.5 subvariant is fueling the majority of new U.S. COVID cases, accounting for nearly 90% of cases.
All teens and adults should get the new booster shots at least two months after their last COVID vaccine or booster, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends.
“If people stay up to date on their vaccines, if people get treated if they have a breakthrough infection, we can make deaths from this virus vanishingly rare,” Jha noted.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19.
SOURCE: NBC News