LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Going to get a COVID-19 booster shot can be quite different depending on your age and health status, but in a long-awaited move, a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel decided to do away with the confusion.
In a unanimous vote, a group of 21 experts agreed to have one type of COVID vaccine available for the majority of Americans. The consensus is that simpler is better and bivalent is better.
"Sixteen times lower hospitalizations, 13 times lower death compared to those who are unvaccinated, I think those numbers kind of speak for themselves," said Dr. Adam Berger, who sits on the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee or VRBPAC.
The updated bivalent shot targets both the original virus strain and the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants.
The panel's decision was based on science and the need to deliver a simpler message to reach more Americans.
"The updated vaccine and safety data are really encouraging so far," said Dr. David Kim, who is on the FDA advisory panel.
Dr. Archana Chatterjee, who is also a part of VRBPAC, said having vaccines is not sufficient enough and that they need to have them be used.
The panel also recommended using the bivalent shots even for those who didn't get a primary series.
Although, doctors might still need to give primer shots to the very young, the very sick and the elderly, it will be up to the FDA to make this official.
"I would love for this to be like the annual flu vaccine," said Infectious Disease specialist Dr. David Bronstein with Kaiser Permanente.
One item that's still on the table, he said, is whether to make this a yearly shot.
"In my mind, it makes sense to use the vaccine that covers more of the subvariants and gives better protection. There's really no downside to giving that added protection," he said.
But unlike the flu, we've learned COVID can be unpredictable, so the panel pointed out that Americans could need additional shots should a new surge or variant emerge.
"We're not really seeing a pattern of seasonality, or at least a very clear one," said Bronstein. "To know that, it's just going to come in the winter time, that hasn't been established yet."
If the government decides it should be an annual shot, one strategy describes experts meeting in June to decide which variants to put in the vaccine and having them ready and available by fall.