For the first time since December 2020, science has “caught up with the virus,” the White House’s COVID czar said Tuesday, at a news conference heralding the rollout of Omicron-specific boosters in the U.S.
Soon, healthy Americans may only require a COVID vaccine annually, with no need for boosters in between, Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s COVID response coordinator, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said.
“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, with annual, updated COVID-19 shots matched to the currently circulating strains for most of the population,” Fauci said.
Some vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and immunocompromised, may continue to need boosters, he added.
For nearly two years, researchers have been in a race against the novel coronavirus, as a slew of new variants rendered the first-generation COVID vaccine seemingly more impotent with each evolution.
As of September, science has caught up, Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told Fortune.
“We now have a vaccine that matches the predominant strain out there,” Benjamin said. “We’re not seeing a new strain evolving that’s overtaking it, at least not yet. We still don’t know what the future holds.”
By the end of the week, 90% of Americans will live within 5 miles of the new booster doses, Jha said.
Appointments for the updated jab should be “widely available” within a week, he added.