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    US proposes once-a-year COVID shots for most Americans

    WASHINGTON (AP) – United States (US) health officials want to make COVID-19 vaccinations more like the annual flu shot.

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday proposed a simplified approach for future vaccination efforts, allowing most adults and children to get a once-a-year shot to protect against the mutating virus.

    This means Americans would no longer have to keep track of how many shots they’ve received or how many months it’s been since their last booster.

    The proposal comes as boosters have become a hard sell. While more than 80 per cent of the US population has had at least one vaccine dose, only 16 per cent of those eligible have received the latest boosters authorised in August.

    The FDA will ask its panel of outside vaccine experts to weigh in at a meeting tomorrow.

    The agency is expected to take their advice into consideration while deciding future vaccine requirements for manufacturers.

    A nurse prepares a syringe of a COVID-19 vaccine at an inoculation station in Jackson, Mississippi, United States. PHOTO: AP

    In documents posted online, FDA scientists say many Americans now have “sufficient pre-existing immunity” against the coronavirus because of vaccination, infection or a combination of the two.

    That baseline of protection should be enough to move to an annual booster against the latest strains in circulation and make COVID-19 vaccinations more like the yearly flu shot, according to the agency. For adults with weakened immune systems and very small children, a two-dose combination may be needed for protection.

    FDA scientists and vaccine companies would study vaccination, infection rates and other data to decide who should receive a single shot versus a two-dose series.

    FDA will also ask its panel to vote on whether all vaccines should target the same strains.

    That step would be needed to make the shots interchangeable, doing away with the current complicated system of primary vaccinations and boosters.

    The initial shots from Pfizer and Moderna, called the primary series, target the strain of the virus that first emerged in 2020 and quickly swept across the world.

    The updated boosters launched last fall were also tweaked to target Omicron relatives that had been dominant. Under FDA’s proposal, the agency, independent experts and manufacturers would decide annually on which strains to target by the early summer, allowing several months to produce and launch updated shots before the fall.

    That’s roughly the same approach long used to select the strains for the annual flu shot.

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