ATLANTA, Georgia: This autumn, updated COVID-19 vaccines could be combined with flu shots and with the first vaccines for another virus called respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
The potential move is aimed at helping prevent another "tripledemic," experienced last year when U.S. hospitals were overwhelmed with an early flu season, an RSV surge, and another winter COVID-19 surge.
Approval of the updated COVID-19 shots is expected within days.
"There will be a lot of viruses this winter. That is why we want to get ahead of it," said Dr. Mandy Cohen, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Like how flu shots are updated annually, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave COVID-19 vaccine makers a new recipe for autumn 2023.
Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax have brewed new supplies for the latest variant named XBB.1.1.5.
The FDA will soon decide if the companies have met safety, effectiveness, and quality standards, and the CDC must sign off before vaccinations begin.
A CDC advisory panel is set to meet this week to make relevant recommendations.
Earlier this month, European regulators authorized Pfizer's updated vaccine for adults and children as young as six months for vaccinations this autumn.
Barring a new mutant, health officials are optimistic.
"The best thing people can do to maintain a normal way of life is to continue to get their booster shots," said Duke University vaccine expert David Montefiori.
Influenza can also pose a serious risk to certain groups, including children, the elderly, and those with weak immune systems and lung or heart disease.
Not as well-known as the flu, RSV is a cold-like virus for most people, and it fills hospitals every winter and can be fatal to children under five years, seniors, and people with certain serious health issues.