Getting the flu shot has become an annual tradition for many of us, providing yearly protection from one of the most common infectious diseases. Soon, we may be following a similar procedure for COVID vaccinations.
On Jan. 23, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed that healthy adults get an annual dosage of the latest COVID-19 vaccine. The FDA also "asked its panel of external advisers to consider the usage of two COVID vaccine shots a year for some young children, older adults and persons with compromised immunity," per Reuters.
The White House first suggested the move towards annual vaccination in a Sept. 6 press briefing. "This week, we begin a new phase in our COVID-19 response. We are launching a new vaccine — our first in almost two years — with a new approach. For most Americans, that means one COVID-19 shot, once a year, each fall," President Joe Biden said in a statement at the time.
At the same briefing, former Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said, "It is becoming increasingly clear that, looking forward with the COVID-19 pandemic, in the absence of a dramatically different variant, we likely are moving towards a path with a vaccination cadence similar to that of the annual influenza vaccine, with annual, updated COVID-19 shots matched to the currently circulating strains for most of the population."
However, Dr. Fauci said that some groups of people — in particular, vulnerable populations — may need more frequent vaccinations. Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine, how long immunity lasts, and how often you'll need to get vaccinated.
Will I Need a COVID-19 Vaccine Every Year?
Based on the FDA and White House's most recent announcements, it seems that annual COVID-19 vaccinations could be in our future.
The annual vaccines, as proposed by the FDA, would be simplified compared to the current vaccination and booster recommendations. The original COVID vaccines would likely be retired, and the newer bivalent doses (which target broad protection against COVID-19 and COVID-19 caused by the omicron variant) would be used instead, per the New York Times. Not everyone is on board with the proposal, however. The FDA is scheduled to meet on Jan. 26 to discuss the possible frequency of vaccination and which doses will be offered.
How Long Does COVID-19 Immunity Last After Vaccination?
During the September press briefing, Dr. Fauci said regarding effectiveness, that "data from the pivotal COVID-19 mRNA vaccine efficacy trials in 2020 showed a remarkable 94 to 95 percent efficacy against symptomatic disease."
"We later learned through real-world evidence that vaccine protection, particularly against infection, wanes over time but that additional doses enhance protection particularly against severe disease leading to hospitalization or death," he continued.
So we know that vaccines boost your immunity and protect you against the most severe consequences of the virus. However, there's not enough data to yet know exactly how long immunity lasts and to what extent.
Are COVID-19 Vaccines Effective Against New Variations?
Dr. Fauci stated that the updated vaccinations are expected to perform well and protect people more effectively against the SARS-CoV-2 subvariants. He continued, "we fully expect that the updated bivalent vaccines containing BA.4 and BA.5 sequences will offer better protection against currently circulating strains than the original vaccines, although it is difficult to predict at this point how much better that protection will be." Since then, the latest strain XBB.1.5 or "The Kraken Variant" has gained attention as the most transmissible variant to date. Still, experts believe vaccines will offer the necessary protections.
As we continue to navigate this pandemic, many people are experiencing vaccination fatigue — there's been a lot of shots, anxiety, and uncertainty. But Dr. Fauci has been clear: get your updated COVID shot as soon as possible to protect yourself, your family, and your community.
In the meantime, and as Americans continue to get vaccinated, it's important to continue doing what we can to protect ourselves and others: washing your hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds, being mindful of large crowds and indoor events, and wearing a face mask in public, especially in larger crowds and if you're not fully vaccinated or immunocompromised.
—Additional reporting by Sara Youngblood Gregory and Alexis Jones
POPSUGAR aims to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check out resources from the WHO, the CDC, and local public health departments.