Annual COVID-19 Vaccines Are Coming & Here's What You Need to Know

Soon, you’ll likely be able to get an annual COVID-19 booster alongside your yearly flu shot.

Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a proposal outlining its plan to begin releasing an annual COVID-19 vaccine that targets the dominant strain of the virus, similar to the annual flu shot. The vaccine would be released ahead of anticipated peaks in case numbers. Under this new strategy, individuals would only need one dose to “restore protective immunity” for the current season.

The agency also proposed phasing out the original COVID-19 vaccine, which became available in 2020, in favor of newer technology from Moderna and Pfizer. These vaccines are bivalent, meaning they offer protection against multiple variants of the virus — in this case, the original strain and the Omicron variant.

The hope is that this streamlined strategy will eliminate confusion and encourage more people to get vaccinated, the FDA said.

“FDA expects that simplification of COVID-19 vaccine composition and annual immunization schedules may contribute to more facile vaccine deployment, fewer vaccine administration errors, and less complex communication, all potentially leading to improved vaccine coverage rates and, ultimately, to enhanced public health,” the brief reads in part.

This week’s announcement comes on the heels of an official recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. As People noted, the committee voted unanimously last October to add the COVID-19 vaccine to its recommended immunization schedules for 2023.

It also comes amid a particularly brutal season for the flu, COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) — so brutal, in fact, that it has been dubbed a “tripledemic.” Last fall, high numbers of all three viruses caused major spikes in pediatric hospitalizations nationwide… and shortages of key antiviral medications used to treat these illnesses.

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