Endemic stage of pandemic could lead to yearly COVID-19 vaccine dose

The new COVID-19 strategy could usher in the endemic stage of the virus.
The new COVID-19 strategy could usher in the endemic stage of the virus. Photo credit Getty Images

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS RADIO) – As the world enters the endemic stage of the COVID-19 virus, the FDA is considering a new COVID-19 vaccine strategy.

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The new strategy would focus on simplifying the use of the vaccine and updating them. In the past and even up to recently the guidelines around the vaccine have been a bit confusing at times.

"What we'd all like to see is going into a more endemic phase where we're not having these seemingly random recommendations for boosters that can be kind of complicated," said Dr. Dean Blumberg, an infectious disease specialist with UC Davis Health on KCBS Radio’s "Ask an Expert" with Margie Shafer and Eric Thomas.

"Maybe a once-yearly vaccine just before the expected season for COVID-19," he said.

Most people at this point have either been vaccinated, had COVID-19, or both, giving them some immunity that can be boosted. So for most, they would just need to get the yearly booster.

Which might be different for really young children. With the flu vaccine, for very young kids it's recommended they receive two doses – the first dose to prime the immune system and the second one to boost it, the first time they get the vaccine.

"We've learned a lot about the virus itself, we've learned a lot about immune responses, and we've learned a lot about the immune responses to vaccines and how well they protect," said Blumberg.

"We're really evolving in terms of our knowledge," he said. "And with widespread immunity, we're hopeful that there’s less hospitalizations, less severe disease, and less deaths due to COVID-19."

The process of making a yearly COVID-19 vaccine would be very similar to how the influenza vaccine its done, it’s actually even easier and more efficient to do an mRNA vaccine.

COVID-19 was considered much more dangerous than the flu early on in the pandemic, but with more widespread immunity it’s become less severe.

There are still elements of the virus that make it more serious than the flu, like long COVID-19, which scientists and health experts are still working to understand.

"The strokes and the other clotting issues that occur with COVID-19 is something we haven’t seen as much with influenza," said Blumberg.

But there still is a lot of misinformation about COVID-19 and the vaccine, despite being at this late stage in the pandemic.

"There's always hope and I think we're learning more about public health messaging and individual messaging – that we need clear and consistent messaging to people about this," he said. "Hopefully we can break through some of these conspiracy theories."

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty Imageas