Lazy eyes listen
The US Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to recommend annual Covid-19 vaccinations tailored to specific strains, with annual updates to keep up with newly emerging variants.
The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee outlined a new strategy for Covid immunizations in a briefing document published on Monday, emphasizing the need to streamline its existing recommendations.
The FDA committee said it would consider “simplifying the composition and immunization schedules” for coronavirus vaccines during a meeting later this week, as well as updating all shots to target the same variants. It compared the plan to a long-used flu-fighting strategy.
“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 committee said, adding that an evaluation of Covid-19 variants should be performed each year ahead of the fall season.
The transition to annual shots with uniform composition could help to increase vaccine coverage and compliance, as well as facilitate “clearer communication” with the public and reduce “vaccine administration errors,” according to the documents. Higher-risk individuals, such as the elderly or those with compromised immune systems, may require two doses per year, but “most individuals” will only require one.
However, some FDA advisors remain skeptical of the agency’s plans, claiming they are based on “little research,” with officials expressing reservations in comments to the New York Times.
“I’d like to see some data, preferably observational data, on the effect of dosing interval. And, in the future, I’d like to see data gathered to see if we’re doing the right thing,” said Dr. Eric Rubin, an FDA advisor and the editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Another advisor, Dr. Paul Offit of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Vaccine Education Center, questioned whether annual vaccinations are even necessary, arguing that the decision should be driven by a variety of factors.
“What age are they? What are their medical conditions? When was their most recent vaccine dose? “Did they take any antiviral medications?” Offit inquired. He claimed that the current national vaccination strategy appears to be “dosing everyone all the time,” but argued that “that’s just not a good reason.”
“I’m choosing to believe that they are open to advice and that they haven’t already decided what they’re going to do,” he said of the FDA proposal.