FDA advisors question seasonal Covid vaccine updates like flu shots

An independent panel of advisors to the US FDA has questioned the need to "periodically" update Covid vaccines, citing uncertainty over whether the virus is seasonal like the flu. The panel voted unanimously that new vaccines for the fall should be monovalent and target one of the omicron XBB strains, which are now the dominant variants nationwide. The original voting question included language about whether the panel recommends a "periodic update" to Covid shots, but several advisors raised concerns, indicating uncertainty around what the Covid pandemic will look like in the years ahead. The FDA has proposed shifting to annual Covid shots, a simplified approach involving yearly updates to the jabs, similar to how the US rolls out new flu vaccines every fall and winter. However, several advisors cautioned against calling Covid seasonal like the flu, and emphasized that the virus constantly mutates into new variants and has yet to settle into a predictable seasonal pattern. Former White House health officials Dr. Ashish Jha and Dr. Anthony Fauci back the shift to an annually updated Covid vaccine, citing the benefits of adopting a similar approach to the flu shot. Recent polling suggests the public is open to the idea, with more than half of about 1,200 US adult respondents saying they would likely get an annual Covid vaccine if it were offered similar to a yearly flu shot. The uptake of the most recent bivalent boosters, which target the original Covid strain and omicron BA.4 and BA.5, has been sluggish, with only about 17% of the US population having received Pfizer and Moderna's boosters since they were approved in September. Pfizer is already preparing to shift to an annual schedule by developing "next-generation" versions of its shot, which aim to broaden and extend the protection people get from the virus to a full year.


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