Annual Covid shots must to curb future outbreaks: US FDA

Washington: It’s time to accept that as the presence of Covid will remain inevitable, the need for annual vaccination may be the new norm to “blunt future outbreaks”, according to officials at the US Food and Drug Administration.

Writing in a paper published in the medical journal JAMA, the officials said the US needs to update its Covid-19 vaccines each year, which may also include an annual Covid vaccine alongside a seasonal flu shot.

While many people are hoping that the worst of the pandemic is over, “it is time to accept that the presence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid, is the new normal,” Dr Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, Dr Janet Woodcock, Principal Deputy Commissioner, and new FDA Commissioner Dr Robert Califf wrote in the study.

“It will likely circulate globally for the foreseeable future, taking its place alongside other common respiratory viruses such as influenza.

“And it likely will require similar annual consideration for vaccine composition updates,” they noted.

Covid-19 vaccines, developed and deployed in record time based on foundational scientific and clinical research conducted over the preceding decade, have conservatively saved tens of thousands of lives in the US and many more across the globe.

Studies from several countries including the US and Israel have supported the need for third and fourth booster doses of Covid vaccine.

Meanwhile, the FDA last week announced plans to convene its vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee on June 28 to discuss whether the composition of the current Covid-19 vaccines should be modified, and if so, what updates should be selected for the fall.

By this summer, “decisions will need to be made” on who should be eligible for additional Covid shots in the fall, and by June, the composition of the vaccines will need to be determined, the officials wrote.

The composition of the current vaccines must be updated to target circulating coronavirus variants. The officials noted that this coming fall and winter, three factors may increase the risk of Covid: waning immunity, seasonal waves of more coronavirus spread, and the further evolution of the virus, leading to the birth of new variants.

“With the plan for implementation of this year’s vaccine selection process, society is moving towards a new normal that may well include annual Covid vaccination alongside seasonal influenza vaccination,” they said.

Vaccines, as public health interventions, have been responsible over the past century for reducing an unimaginable amount of morbidity and for saving millions of lives.

The eradication of smallpox and near elimination of several other infectious diseases are an unambiguous triumph of modern medicine, the officials said. – IANS

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