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FDA Wants To Change How COVID-19 Vaccines Are Updated

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants the COVID-19 vaccine to follow in the footsteps of the flu vaccine in terms of composition, dispensing and updating. 

The federal agency released a report on Monday detailing how it would simplify the process by which the vaccines get updated and released annually, much like how the up-to-date flu vaccine is rolled out yearly. 

According to the FDA, since the pandemic is still ongoing, the health issue continues to pose a challenge to the global community. This includes the need to come up with an established framework for periodic updates for future vaccination campaigns. 

So on Jan. 26, the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) will look into ways to simplify the composition and immunization schedules of the authorized vaccines, the process for determining the next vaccine updates and the rollout of the updated vaccines. 

The FDA said it hopes the VRBPAC members will consider the following issues during the upcoming meeting: 

  • Transitioning to a single vaccine for primary series and booster vaccination
  • Harmonizing the strain composition of all COVID-19 vaccines (mRNA, protein-based)
  • Simplifying the schedule for future vaccination campaigns to administer a two-dose series in young children, older adults and persons with compromised immunity, and only one dose in all other individuals
  • Establishing a process for strain selection recommendations, similar to the seasonal influenza vaccines
  • Having a strain selection meeting at any time in between routine periodic strain selections to address the more pathogenic variants

“This simplification of vaccine composition should reduce complexity, decrease vaccine administration errors due to the complexity of the number of different vial presentations, and potentially increase vaccine compliance by allowing clearer communication,” the FDA said in its report. 

Since the plan involves the process involved in the updating cycle of the flu vaccine, experts are tasked to decide in June which strains to target for the fall season. Production of the new COVID-19 vaccines will then take place in September. 

“Recommending vaccines on a regular basis as part of your routine health care is something that we should be doing. An annual boost with the vaccine will actually help make your T-cells more fit, keep them up to date and keep them in a position to protect us behind the antibodies,” Dr. John Wherry, the director of the Institute for Immunology at the University of Pennsylvania, told CNN in response to the FDA’s plan.

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