Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee in 2021. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — COVID-19 booster shots are on track to become as frequent as the annual flu shot, though high-risk people may need more than one dose per year, Biden administration officials said Tuesday.
“For a large majority of Americans, we are moving to a point where a single annual COVID shot should provide a high degree of protection against serious illness all year,” White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Ashish Jha said during a briefing.
Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, conveyed a similar message, saying that “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.”
Naveen Patil, an infectious disease physician and deputy state health officer at the Arkansas Department of Health, said Tuesday at a joint legislative committee meeting that he expects yearly COVID-19 vaccines to become a primary line of defense against the illness.
State Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, R-Rogers and the chair of the Senate Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor, asked Patil if receiving regular COVID-19 shots “indefinitely” could keep the virus at bay. Patil said he foresees this “possibility.”
The move could provide clarity and possibly simplicity for people who have been trying to keep track of if and when they should get a COVID-19 booster.
The most recent announcement about booster shots came last week when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended people 12 and older get another COVID-19 booster dose in the coming weeks.
Jha said Tuesday he expects there may be updates on the booster for kids under 12 at some point later in the fall.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement about the boosters last week that the new bivalent shots are “formulated to better protect against the most recently circulating COVID-19 variant.”
“They can help restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination and were designed to provide broader protection against newer variants,” Walensky said.
During Tuesday’s briefing Walensky urged people to get the booster shot, noting that 375 people on average are dying daily from COVID-19 within the U.S.
That number, she said, is “well above the around 200 deaths a day we saw earlier this spring, and in my mind, far too high for a vaccine preventable disease.”
Despite a lack of new funding from Congress to address COVID-19 domestically and abroad, Biden administration officials stressed Tuesday that there are enough doses for all eligible people to get a booster shot heading into the winter.
But, Jha said that only happened after officials pulled money from other public health priorities to secure the vaccine doses. He also said it is “critical” U.S. lawmakers provide the White House with the $22.4 billion officials believe is needed to continue responding to COVID-19.
“Congress is aware that if we do not continue to fund the response, things can easily go backwards,” Jha said.
Information for this article was contributed by Tess Vrbin of the Arkansas Advocate.
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