In a recent interview, the newly appointed director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggested that the agency may soon come out with a recommendation for Americans to be vaccinated for COVID-19 every year.1 2 Mandy Cohen, MD, MPH, who was sworn in as the 20th CDC director on July 10, 2023,3 told Spectrum News:
We’re just on the precipice of that, so I don’t want to get ahead of where our scientists are here and doing that evaluation work, but yes we anticipate that COVID will become similar to flu shots, where it is going to be you get your annual flu shot and you get your annual COVID shot. We’re not quite there yet, but stay tuned. I think within the next couple of weeks, month we’re going to hear more from our experts on COVID shots.1 2
Biden Administration Wants Annual COVID Booster Shots
This revelation by Dr. Cohen is hardly surprising. The drumbeat for pushing for an annual COVID shot for people in the United States has been growing louder and louder for at least a year now. On Sept. 6, 2022, Anthony Fauci, MD, then chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said at a White House press briefing:
It is becoming increasingly clear that, looking forward with the COVID-19 pandemic, in the absence of a dramatically different variants, 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.4 5
At the same briefing, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, Ashish Jha, MD, MPH, said:
[F]or a large majority of Americans, we are moving to a point where a single annual COVID shot should provide a high degree of protection against serious illness all year. That’s an important milestone.5
Leaving no room for any misunderstanding, President Biden confirmed later that day in a statement:
This week, we begin a new phase in our COVID-19 response. We are launching a new vaccine—our first in almost two years—with a new approach. For most Americans, that means one COVID-19 shot, once a year, each fall. As the virus continues to change, we will now be able to update our vaccines annually to target the dominant variant. Just like your annual flu shot, you should get it sometime between Labor Day and Halloween.6 7
Combination COVID/Influenza Shots Coming Soon
On Jan. 23, 2023, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed moving to an annual COVID booster shot, which would be given alongside the annual influenza vaccine. One of the main reasons for such a move would be for the sake of convenience.8 9
“It would be easier [for primary care doctors and other health care providers] to encourage our patients to get one set of annual shots, rather than to count the number of boosters or have two separate shots that people have to obtain,” said Leana Wen, MD, a public health professor at George Washington University in Washington, DC. “Employers, nursing homes, and other facilities could offer the two shots together, and a combined shot may even be possible in the future.”8
In 2022, the FDA granted Pfizer/BioNTech permission to fast track a combination COVID/influenza shot using mRNA technology. Moderna and other companies are also working on a combination COVID/influenza shot in anticipation of COVID shots being given annually like flu shots.10 11
Pfizer and other companies are complaining that consumer demand for COVID shots has been rapidly dropping off, threatening projected profits. NVIC president and co-founder Barbara Loe Fisher told The Epoch Times last week that, “The companies need a new market for the COVID product and they can get that by combining it with the influenza vaccine and making sure the CDC recommends that everyone get a COVID booster annually.”12
Pointing to recent surveys that show Americans are concerned about the safety of COVID shots and do not trust the CDC’s ever changing and conflicting vaccine recommendations, Fisher said, “If CDC officials recommend that everyone get an annual COVID booster shot, it will only further increase public distrust in vaccines and call into question the scientific and moral integrity of public health policy.”13
Science Behind Annual COVID Shots Not Strong
Carlos del Rio, MD, of Emory University in Atlanta and president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, agrees with the convenience argument. He said, “We would like to see something simple and similar like the flu.” However, Dr. del Rio is not convinced that the science supports the idea of an annual COVID shot. He said:
I also think we need to have the science to guide us, and I think the science right now is not necessarily there… Based on the information I’ve seen and the data we have, I’m not convinced that this is a strategy that is going to make sense.8
Dr. de Rio added:
One thing we’ve learned from this virus is that it throws curveballs frequently, and when we make a decision, something changes. So, I think we continue doing research, we follow the science, and we make decisions based on science and not what is most convenient.8
On June 15, 20223, several members of the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) expressed similar concerns about the lack of good science needed to justify an annual COVID shot. Because of these concerns, the question of whether the panel would recommend a “periodic update” to COVID shots was considered to be premature. According to Arthur Reingold, MD, professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Berkeley:
As worded, it seems to be saying, do we agree that there’s gonna be a regular need to update? And I don’t think that’s clear.14
There was also concern among some panel members about referring to COVID as “seasonal” like the flu. “It’s not clear to me that this is a seasonal virus yet,” said Henry Bernstein, MD, a pediatrician at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York.14
Mark Sawyer, MD, professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego, agreed…
I think using the word season is equally problematic. It links the campaign to the influenza vaccine. I understand that it may be convenient and most efficient to give the vaccines together, but it’s only been a few years and we really don’t know what the Covid season is.14
Despite reservations by many physicians about proceeding with annual COVID shots and a lack of a clear consensus among FDA medical advisors regarding the science to justify them, it appears that the CDC under Dr. Cohen will likely recommend adopting the annual flu shot model for the COVID shots.
Given the statements from the White House and the FDA in support of this proposal, it is hard to imagine the CDC going against the grain and opposing it. Certainly not under the leadership of Dr. Cohen, who was picked for the post not because she’s seen as an independent or critical thinker, but rather as a team player who tends to go along with the prevailing views of her bosses and colleagues.
In the letter sent to President Biden on June 13, 2023, several members of Congress wrote:
While Dr. Cohen claims to have acted on scientific data, her account of her decision-making during the pandemic indicates that she merely arbitrarily copied her friends’ actions in similar positions of power, without considering scientific evidence or the decisions of elected officials.15
Dr. Cohen has been described as a “Fauci acolyte” who “resembles her predecessor” (Dr. Rochelle Walensky)—”a member of the clubby establishment of right-thinking officials who see their life’s work not so much as protecting public health as leveraging public-health threats.”16
That clubby establishment, which is highly funded and influenced by the pharmaceutical industry, seems dead set on keeping the COVID market alive indefinitely, even though the pandemic, as a public health emergency, has been over for months. What better way to do this than by insisting that everyone get a COVID booster shot every year?
If you would like to receive an e-mail notice of the most recent articles published in The Vaccine Reaction each week, click here.Click here to view References:
1 Jones R, Tasolides J. CDC likely to recommend annual COVID shot similar to flu, director says. Spectrum News NY1 July 27, 2023.
2 Musto J. CDC likely to recommend annual COVID booster shot, director says. Fox News July 28, 2023.
3 Christensen J. New CDC director brings health care, public health experience to agency facing aftermath of pandemic. CNN July 11, 2023.
4 Bendix A. Covid vaccines will likely become annual like flu shots, White House officials say. NBC News Sept. 6, 2022.
5 Press Briefing. Press Briefing by White House COVID-19 Response Team and Public Health Officials. The White House Sept. 6, 2022.
6 Gardner L. White House: Covid-19 boosters will become annual shot, just like the flu vaccine. Politico Sept. 6, 2022.
7 Griffin R, Baumann J, Wingrove J. Covid Is Likely to Require Yearly Booster Like Flu Shot, Fauci Says. Bloomberg Sept. 6, 2022.
8 McNamara D, Wairimu Davis K. The FDA Wants an Annual COVID Vaccine: What You Need to Know. WebMD Jan. 24, 2023.
9 O’Mary L. FDA Wants Annual COVID Boosters, Just Like Annual Flu Shots. WebMD Jan. 23, 2023.
10 Pfizer, Inc., BioNTech SE. Pfizer and BioNTech Receive U.S. FDA Fast Track Designation for Single-Dose mRNA Based Vaccine Candidate Against COVID-19 and Influenza. Dec. 9, 2022.
11 Becker J. Pfizer, Moderna and more look to combine COVID and Flu vaccine markets. Fierce Pharma Jan. 23, 2023.
12 Reed T. Pfizer signals future cuts amid waning COVID demand. Axios Aug. 2, 2023.
13 Stieber Z. CDC Poised to Recommend Annual COVID-19 Shots: Director. The Epoch Times July 30, 2023.
14 Kim Constantino A. FDA advisors raise doubts about seasonal updates to Covid vaccines as with flu shots. CNBC June 16, 2023.
15 Cáceres M. CDC Director Nominee Declared “Unfit” for Politicizing Science. The Vaccine Reaction June 18, 2023.
16 Cáceres M. Potential Pick for CDC Director Continues to Draw Criticism. The Vaccine Reaction June 25, 2023.