Will You Need an Annual COVID-19 Vaccine? Here’s What Experts Predict

In the future, public health experts may recommend getting an annual COVID-19 vaccine the same way a flu vaccine is recommended every fall, according to a new viewpoint article published in JAMA, which is authored by three Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials.“Administering additional COVID-19 vaccine doses to appropriate individuals this fall around the time of the usual influenza campaign has the potential to protect susceptible individuals against hospitalization and death, and therefore will be a topic for FDA consideration,” the article says. “Those at greatest risk who might benefit most from vaccination include immunocompromised individuals and people older than 50 years.”In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts warned against comparing influenza to COVID-19, in part because the first wave of coronavirus cases led to many more deaths than the average flu season. However, because the dominant coronavirus variants now circulating, including the omicron subvariant BA.2, are less likely to cause severe illness and death, researchers are beginning to associate the two respiratory viruses. During the height of the omicron wave in the U.S. in December 2021 Dr. Fauci told CBS Mornings that it was “entirely conceivable and likely” that we will eventually live with COVID-19 the way we do influenza and the common cold. “We are not going to be in a situation of this degree of intensity indefinitely…we hope we get there soon,” he said. It’s plausible that our “new normal” will include regular COVID-19 vaccines to prevent potentially devastating outbreaks in the future, Kristin Englund, MD, an infectious disease expert at Cleveland Clinic, who was not an author of the new viewpoint article, told SELF. “I think it’s too early to say that we’re absolutely going to get a fall shot,” Dr. Endlund says, but she believes that the country may see a recommendation for one. Amesh Adalja, MD, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, echoes this. “I think, in general, the goal has been to make COVID-19 more like the flu in terms of its ability to cause severe disease,” Dr. Adalja, who was not an author of the new viewpoint article, tells SELF.Fall could be the optimal time to get a COVID-19 vaccine for various reasons, Dr. Englund says. First, most respiratory viruses kick up during the fall and winter months—which is why you’re advised to get your flu shot around October. If similar viruses are any example, COVID-19 will spike around then too, Dr. Englund adds. Fall is also when many children and young people go back to school, where outbreaks are more likely to occur as people start to gather in classrooms and common areas. But researchers are still unclear on which vaccine will be recommended next and who will be eligible. Dr. Adalja says it’s still too early to determine the “optimal vaccine policy.” “Booster or new vaccine? We’re going to have to see what variants are out in the fall,” Dr. Englund agrees. Right now, all COVID-19 vaccines being administered are first-generation vaccines, meaning the original formulation offered to health care providers in late 2020 is still in use for each one, Dr. Adalja says. In the future, though, researchers might create and administer a new vaccine that’s more effective against the circulating strains of the time. For instance, Dr. Adalja says, the Omicron variant infected many vaccinated individuals, highlighting the fact that updating our vaccines may be necessary to fight future variants and prevent more surges. (Moderna is one vaccine maker that is already ahead of the game: The biotech company is working on developing a combination influenza and COVID-19 vaccine that could be available as soon as fall 2023, The Guardian reported.)

In the future, public health experts may recommend getting an annual COVID-19 vaccine the same way a flu vaccine is recommended every fall, according to a new viewpoint article published in JAMA, which is authored by three Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials.

“Administering additional COVID-19 vaccine doses to appropriate individuals this fall around the time of the usual influenza campaign has the potential to protect susceptible individuals against hospitalization and death, and therefore will be a topic for FDA consideration,” the article says. “Those at greatest risk who might benefit most from vaccination include immunocompromised individuals and people older than 50 years.”

In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts warned against comparing influenza to COVID-19, in part because the first wave of coronavirus cases led to many more deaths than the average flu season. However, because the dominant coronavirus variants now circulating, including the omicron subvariant BA.2, are less likely to cause severe illness and death, researchers are beginning to associate the two respiratory viruses. 

During the height of the omicron wave in the U.S. in December 2021 Dr. Fauci told CBS Mornings that it was “entirely conceivable and likely” that we will eventually live with COVID-19 the way we do influenza and the common cold. “We are not going to be in a situation of this degree of intensity indefinitely…we hope we get there soon,” he said. 

It’s plausible that our “new normal” will include regular COVID-19 vaccines to prevent potentially devastating outbreaks in the future, Kristin Englund, MD, an infectious disease expert at Cleveland Clinic, who was not an author of the new viewpoint article, told SELF. “I think it’s too early to say that we’re absolutely going to get a fall shot,” Dr. Endlund says, but she believes that the country may see a recommendation for one. Amesh Adalja, MD, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, echoes this. “I think, in general, the goal has been to make COVID-19 more like the flu in terms of its ability to cause severe disease,” Dr. Adalja, who was not an author of the new viewpoint article, tells SELF.

Fall could be the optimal time to get a COVID-19 vaccine for various reasons, Dr. Englund says. First, most respiratory viruses kick up during the fall and winter months—which is why you’re advised to get your flu shot around October. If similar viruses are any example, COVID-19 will spike around then too, Dr. Englund adds. Fall is also when many children and young people go back to school, where outbreaks are more likely to occur as people start to gather in classrooms and common areas. 

But researchers are still unclear on which vaccine will be recommended next and who will be eligible. Dr. Adalja says it’s still too early to determine the “optimal vaccine policy.” “Booster or new vaccine? We’re going to have to see what variants are out in the fall,” Dr. Englund agrees. Right now, all COVID-19 vaccines being administered are first-generation vaccines, meaning the original formulation offered to health care providers in late 2020 is still in use for each one, Dr. Adalja says. In the future, though, researchers might create and administer a new vaccine that’s more effective against the circulating strains of the time. For instance, Dr. Adalja says, the Omicron variant infected many vaccinated individuals, highlighting the fact that updating our vaccines may be necessary to fight future variants and prevent more surges. (Moderna is one vaccine maker that is already ahead of the game: The biotech company is working on developing a combination influenza and COVID-19 vaccine that could be available as soon as fall 2023, The Guardian reported.)

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