HealthDay News — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration vaccine advisory panel on Thursday voted unanimously to recommend that the agency phase out original versions of COVID-19 vaccines for use in the unvaccinated, in favor of updated bivalent booster shots, NBC News reported.
Committee members also weighed a proposal to streamline the dosing schedule for COVID-19 vaccines by turning them into annual shots that would likely be given every fall. However, the committee did not vote on the proposal because many questions remain and more data on exactly who should get those annual shots, and exactly when, are sorely needed.
Still, the committee members agreed that COVID-19 vaccines do need to become more routine to clear up public confusion and hopefully boost vaccination rates. Such a move would be critical, given the fact that efforts to get people to get the updated COVID-19 booster shots have fallen far short of expectations. While more than 80 percent of Americans have had at least one dose of the original COVID-19 vaccine, only 16 percent of those older than 5 years of age have gotten the updated booster shots that were approved last August, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Some committee members said it was too soon to say whether annual doses were needed, as they are for the flu. But the FDA believes the time is right for annual shots targeting the latest COVID-19 variants, even though Peter Marks, M.D., the agency’s top vaccine regulator, acknowledged during the meeting that simplifying the COVID-19 vaccine schedule to be exactly like the flu vaccine schedule may not be possible.
Jerry Weir, M.D., director of the Division of Viral Products at the FDA Office of Vaccines Research and Review, reassured committee members during the meeting that even if COVID-19 vaccines did become an annual affair, an emergency meeting would be called to discuss whether new boosters are needed if a new, dangerous variant suddenly emerged, NBC News reported.