KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Are you like other Americans who’ve lost track of their last COVID-19 booster? If so, you’re not alone.

On Thursday, a Food and Drug Administration panel will meet to discuss proposing a yearly booster to simplify vaccine protocols.

The shot would be offered around the same time as the annual flu vaccine. Additionally, the panel will also consider what’s in the vaccine as well as potentially switching to a single shot for those who’ve never had the vaccine.

As it stands right now, if you get your first COVID-19 vaccine you’ll have to come back weeks later for a second dose. However, the panel will discuss cutting that down to a single series instead of a two series. Still, the FDA said, in a 25-page document, that certain young people and older people with comorbidities would still need two doses.

“If they can do it in one stop, that is always going to be a positive point,” said Dr. Dana Hawkinson, an infectious diseases physician with the University of Kansas Health System.

The news is welcome to many doctors who said the change would be “easier,” especially since different age groups require different dosages.

“It’s a lot for families to understand, for healthcare providers to implement inside their practices, to have all these different dosing files in addition to having the different vaccines,” added
Dr. Angela Myers, the director of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Mercy Hospital.

Currently, your initial COVID vaccines are monovalent while the booster is a bivalent, meaning it contains a component of the original strain plus a component from the Omicron variant.

“But eventually it won’t be just the booster that’s bivalent. Right now, if you’re getting the primary vaccines, you’re supposed to still get the monovalent, and then the bivalent is for the booster. The idea here is that you’d use the bivalent for all of that,” Myers said.

The FDA is also looking at updating what’s in the vaccine every year, just as it does for influenza. According to the FDA’s 25-page briefing document, experts would meet in June to determine which strains are most likely to cause the most problems that fall.

The ones that look most likely would be incorporated in the bivalent vaccine, which is what also happens for the annual influenza vaccine. That way, they would be ready for distribution by September.

The FDA said Americans, when combined, have enough pre-existing immunity against COVID-19, whether that’s from the vaccine, infection, or both. That’s why the department is now looking to move to this once-a-year booster versus the current setup.