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FDA Advisers Meeting Today to Discuss Future of COVID Vaccine Campaign

The FDA has already laid out a plan similar to the way annual flu shots roll out, according to an agency document shared ahead of Thursday's meeting.

A pair of gloved hands pulls a vaccine dose out of a vial
Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

A group of medical experts that advise the US Food and Drug Administration will discuss plans for COVID-19 vaccines during a day-long meeting Thursday. (It's already underway, and you can watch it live.) Meeting material released earlier this week by the FDA proposed that future COVID-19 vaccines should be updated annually based on the circulating strain of COVID-19, similar to how the flu vaccines roll out each year. 

Most people will need one shot, and others with a higher risk of severe illness may get two, according to the proposal, which isn't official yet.

The document also supports limiting all COVID-19 vaccinations to the bivalent formulas that, compared with the original vaccines, offer better protection against the current subvariants responsible for cases of COVID-19.

The FDA said a plan for "simplification" of COVID-19 vaccine composition, updates and messaging may lead to "improved vaccine coverage rates and, ultimately, to enhanced public health."

Thursday's meeting will offer more insight into health officials' plans, support and concerns over the proposed strategy by the FDA's advisers. While some health experts have welcomed the FDA's proposal document as a simple way to get people vaccinated, some experts have criticized the blanket approach to boosters and vaccinations. 

More details and discussions to come

Thursday's meeting will be an important one because it'll help shape the vaccine campaign as the country attempts to reorganize itself before the COVID-19 pandemic is no longer considered a public health emergency. It also follows disagreements between the FDA and some of its advisory committee members, including over earlier COVID-19 booster decisions and even the recent Alzheimer's drug recommendation, as STAT reports

The FDA doesn't necessarily have to follow its advisory committee's recommendations or vote, but the precedent has been that it does.

According to the meeting document, the FDA is asking its committee to vote on whether all current vaccines should be bivalent (meaning that the original vaccines might be phased out in the US). The agency is also asking advisers to weigh in on how to "simplify" the vaccine schedule, with one-dose recommendations for many people, and two-dose recommendations for people at higher risk of severe disease, and to discuss updates to the COVID-19 vaccine compositions. 

The scientific advisers will also go over safety and effectiveness data on the current COVID-19 vaccines, according to the meeting agenda. We can also expect Thursday's meeting to address questions that have been raised at earlier discussions about vaccines: who needs one the most, what are the benefits and risks, and what's the best time for everyone to get one. 

The FDA's meeting material appears to leave out discussions on other types of vaccines not currently authorized in the US, including nasal and mucosal vaccines. Some scientists have been pushing for more vaccine development going forward, some of which may offer better infection protection against COVID-19. 

How to watch the meeting

The FDA advisory meetings are open to the public, so anyone who wants to can tune in to Thursday's daylong meeting, which started at 8:30 ET/5:30 PT, by visiting the YouTube link on the FDA's website. The meeting is scheduled to run until 5:30 ET/2:30 PT, but it could end earlier. 

Following FDA authorization or approval of a vaccine, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention often holds a similar public meeting with its committee of independent experts to make recommendations and discuss any safety or effectiveness concerns.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.