FDA Wants Annual COVID Boosters, Just Like Annual Flu Shots

Lisa O'Mary

January 24, 2023

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

U.S. health officials want to simplify the recommended COVID-19 vaccine protocol, making it more like the process for annual flu shots.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is suggesting a single annual shot. The formulation would be selected in June targeting the most threatening COVID-19 strains, and then people could get a shot in the fall when people begin spending more time indoors and exposure increases. 

Some people, such as those who are older or immunocompromised, may need more than one dose.

A national advisory committee is expected to vote on the proposal at a meeting Thursday.

People in the U.S. have been much less likely to get an updated COVID-19 booster shot, compared to widespread uptake of the primary vaccine series. In its proposal, the FDA indicated it hoped a single annual shot would overcome challenges created by the complexity of the process — both in messaging and administration — attributed to that low booster rate. Nine in 10 people age 12 or older got the primary vaccine series in the U.S., but only 15% got the latest booster shot for COVID-19.

About half of children and adults in the U.S. get an annual flu shot, according to CDC data.

The FDA also wants to move to a single COVID-19 vaccine formulation that would be used for primary vaccine series and for booster shots.

COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are trending downward, according to The New York Times data tracker. Cases are down 28%, with 47,290 tallied daily. Hospitalizations are down 22%, with 37,474 daily. Deaths are down 4%, with an average of 489 per day as of Sunday.

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