In a move that reflects another transition point in the United States’ fight against the coronavirus, US federal health officials said Tuesday that COVID boosters will be annual to offer the best protection against the latest viral variants.
Noting Covid vaccinations could become akin to yearly influenza shots, the White House has unveiled plans for a new phase in its vaccine initiative as part of the pandemic response, saying most Americans will need Covid-19 shot each fall.
The White House said the new approach can reduce the risk of getting Covid-19, reduce the chance of spreading it to others, and dramatically reduce the risk of severe Covid-19.
Stressing that the new immunization offers the strongest protection against the Omicron strain of Covid-19, the statement adds that the initiative will also allow researchers in the future to update the vaccines annually to target the dominant variant of the virus.
The White House said that the first updated versions of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, the new round of boosters for the fall, will be available beginning this week at tens of thousands of locations.
The updated vaccines are targeting both the original coronavirus and the two omicron subvariants currently causing most infections in the US. If new variants become dominant in the future, these vaccines could be tweaked again similar to how the flu shot works.
The key impression the messaging from the White House has left with its release is that it’s an attempt to sell the public on the benefits of the variant-specific boosters authorized last week considering that demand for jabs has waned with each subsequent booster campaign.
Though White House coronavirus response coordinator Ashish Jha said he expects new boosters to provide better protection against infection, transmission, and protection against serious illness, some infectious disease experts are not convinced the updated boosters will be a game-changer since they haven’t been tested enough to see how well they work.