A panel of independent experts that advises the US Food and Drug Administration on its vaccine decisions will hold a full day of meetings Thursday to consider what the future of Covid-19 vaccination should look like in the United States.
Currently, the US is offering two types of Covid-19 vaccines. The first shots people get – also called the primary series – contain a single set of instructions that teach the immune system to fight off the original version of the virus, which emerged in 2019.
The problem is that this index strain is no longer circulating. It was overrun months ago by an ever-evolving parade of new variants.
So last year, in consultation with its vaccine advisers, the FDA decided that it was time to update the vaccines. These new bivalent shots contain two sets of instructions; one set reminds the immune system about the original version of the coronavirus, and the second set teaches the immune system to recognize and fight off Omicron’s BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, which emerged in the US last year.
People who have had their primary series of shots – nearly 70% of all Americans – were advised to get the new two-strain booster late last year in an effort to upgrade their protection against the latest variants.
Will yearly Covid-19 shots catch on?
But uptake of the new boosters has been slow. Just 15% of the population has gotten one since they were first offered in September.
A separate but related problem is that previously unvaccinated Americans – a group that i …