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5 Takeaways: A New COVID-19 Vaccine Schedule

January 24, 2023

The nation’s vaccine advisors are weighing an annual schedule for COVID-19 vaccines that would be similar to their approach for the flu shot.

This week, the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) is meeting to discuss the annual schedule and composition for COVID-19 vaccines starting this fall. The committee plans to review the latest available data and discuss steps to simplify the vaccine schedule and process.

The panel will consider selecting COVID-19 strains for the vaccine by June, which would ensure enough lead time to produce the updated shots for the fall. The meeting comes as weekly COVID-19 cases and new hospital admissions continue to trend in a positive direction.

“Similar to the approach with influenza, the global nature of SARS-CoV-2 strain evolution warrants a global response when evaluating and recommending vaccine strain composition changes,” the agency said in briefing documents for Thursday’s meeting.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Streamlined doses:  The panel will consider the possibility of transitioning to a single vaccine composition for primary and booster vaccinations
  • One dose or two:  A two-level vaccine schedule could mean administering a two-dose series to young children, older adults, and immunocompromised individuals, and a single dose to all other individuals
  • The challenge at hand:  Mutations in Omicron variant sublineages increase potential for evasion of vaccine-induced immunity, the agency noted in its briefing documents
  • Variant proportions:  The panel will have to weigh clinical data as it considers potential changes to the composition of the vaccine for the fall
    • The XBB.1.5 variant accounts for about 49.1 percent of cases in the U.S.
  • Quotable:  “Currently, it remains impossible to predict which virus variant of concern (VOC) will gain dominance in any particular region of the world and how long a VOC will remain dominant,” the briefing documents note

HAP continues to monitor the latest COVID-19 public health developments and will provide updates to members and the general public. HAP also continues to encourage everyone to stay up to date on their flu and COVID-19 vaccines.

Additional information about the meeting is available online.