Here’s why COVID boosters could end

Syringes filled with COVID-19 vaccine sit on a table at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic on April 06, 2022 in San Rafael, California.
Syringes filled with COVID-19 vaccine sit on a table at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic on April 06, 2022 in San Rafael, California. Photo credit (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

During the Thursday meeting of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, panelists agreed that COVID-19 vaccines offered in the future should be the bivalent shots developed to protect against the omicron variant.

Members also seemed open to the idea that people may not need annual COVID-19 boosters, as explained in a roundup from STAT.

“The panel wasn’t unanimously behind committing to annual COVID shots for everyone, forever,” said the outlet. It quoted Eric Rubin, Harvard infectious disease expert and New England Journal of Medicine Editor, who said, “It’s hard to say it’s going to be annual at this point.”

STAT also said panel member Paul Offit made it “clear repeatedly,” that some do not believe “healthy adults need to be urged to get an annual COVID shot.”

Vaccines to protect against COVID-19 were first rolled out months after the SARS CoV-2 outbreak was declared a global pandemic in March 2020. Per the most recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 81% of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, and a little more than 69% has received the primary series of shots. Booster shots were also made available since efficacy of the vaccines waned over time.

Last August, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced emergency use authorizations for new Moderna and Pfizer bivalent boosters formulated to protect against the omicron variant, which had become the most prevalent form of COVID-19 causing infections. As of Thursday, around 15.5% of the U.S. population has received an updated booster shot.

“The bivalent COVID-19 vaccines include a component of the original virus strain to provide broad protection against COVID-19 and a component of the omicron variant to provide better protection against COVID-19 caused by the omicron variant,” said the FDA. It added that the boosters prevent against severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.

As he wrapped up some points from Thursday’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee meeting, Professor Stanley Perlman of the University of Iowa said there was “general agreement that updating the vaccine composition is good.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, STAT said the panel made it clear “that it’s OK to go from having two different types of COVID shots – the original shots and the bivalent boosters matched to new circulating strains – to just one. From now on, it seems clear, there will be only vaccines matched to current circulating strains and, for now, the bivalent shots will be used as the primary series, too.”

However, the outlet noted that “the FDA will actually have to make that official for it to happen.”

“When it comes to deciding who should get additional doses, how many and when, that will probably be the purview of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, an expert panel that advises the CDC on how vaccines should be used,” STAT explained.

“Some members seemed to question the schedule the FDA is proposing, the select-the-strain-in-June-and-roll-the-vaccine-out-in-September thing,” STAT said of the Thursday meeting. “But they seemed willing to tell FDA to give it a try.”

Perlman said there is a need for information about how the vaccine is working, as well as more information about T cell, B cell and non-neutralizing antibody responses.

Featured Image Photo Credit: (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)