Americans may need annual vaccines to protect against Covid-19

Going forward, Americans may need to get the Covid-19 vaccine every year, White House health officials said Tuesday, adding that the country will live with the coronavirus for the foreseeable future.

“This week marks a significant shift in our fight against the virus,” said Dr Ashish Jha, who leads the White House’s Covid-19 response team. “It marks our ability to make Covid vaccines a more common part of our lives as we continue to drive down serious illness and death and protect Americans as we head into fall and winter.”

Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says he expects this fall to be the start of annual injections for Covid-19, although he added that people immunocompromised may need more frequent protection.

“In the absence of a radically different variant, we are likely heading towards a path with a vaccination cadence similar to that of the annual flu vaccine, with annually updated Covid-19 shots matching the strains currently in circulation. for most of the population,” Fauci said.

Fauci said the updated boosters should continue to protect Americans as the virus gradually changes away from the BA.4 and BA.5 viruses currently in circulation.

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He acknowledged that the plan to provide Americans with a single annual Covid-19 vaccine may need to be revised if the coronavirus takes a significant evolutionary leap, as it did when the Omicron variant emerged around Thanksgiving last year. last. He likened it to a “curveball out of left field”.

“There’s nothing we can do about it except know that we have vaccine platforms that will allow us to move quickly to solve this problem,” Fauci told reporters on Tuesday.

But he stressed that unless the virus changes significantly, the updated boosters should continue to protect over the coming year and could be updated every year.

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“The updated BA.5 vaccine we are talking about would most likely contain a substantial degree of protection against a minor subline change from BA.5. So that’s what we’re talking about. If we can do that , at the end of each year for most of the population, and again to emphasize what we said – for those with underlying conditions, immunocompromised, we may need to do more. most of the population we can watch it on a yearly basis and see are we still close to what we’re doing now well we match pretty closely if that’s good if not then you would like make the change,” Fauci said.

Jha urged Americans ages 12 and older to take advantage of the updated boosters, noting that this is the first time the country has had vaccines that match the variants currently in circulation.

He also said people should get their flu shot at the same time as their Covid-19 shots.

“I really believe that’s why God gave us two arms, one for the flu shot and one for the Covid shot,” Jha joked.

The director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr Rochelle Walensky, told reporters that “the benefits of being up to date on your Covid-19 vaccines are clear”.

The Omicron BA.5 and BA.4 subvariants are the dominant circulating variants of Covid, Walensky said. While hospitalizations are down 14% since last week, there are more deaths now than in the spring, she said.

“The seven-day average of daily deaths is still too high, around 375 per day, well above the roughly 200 deaths per day we saw earlier this spring, and in my mind, far too high for a preventable disease. through vaccination,” Walensky said. .

Fauci said his message to Americans “is simple: get your updated Covid-19 vaccine as soon as you are eligible to protect yourself, your family and your community from Covid-19 this fall and winter.”

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