It is “becoming increasingly clear” that COVID-19 booster shots will become a yearly occurrence, White House health officials said during a briefing Tuesday.

“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,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious diseases expert, said during the briefing.

This comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s independent committee on vaccines on Thursday recommended the first reformulated booster shots to combat the latest Omicron subvariant.

The committee voted in favor of recommending the Pfizer and Moderna shots meant to target both the original strain of COVID-19 as well as the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants.

“We know that the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are safe. We know that receiving the recommended vaccine dose is critical to maintaining optimal protection against severe COVID-19, particularly for the elderly,” Fauci said Tuesday.

“And we expect that the updated vaccines will offer better protection against the SARS-CoV-2 subvariants that are currently circulating.”

Fauci and White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ahishish Jha said the booster updates are intended to handle dominant new subvariants. They also maintained that people with underlying health issues could require more than one annual shot.

“For the first time since December of 2020, these vaccines, our vaccines, have caught up with the virus,” Jha said during the briefing.

“Barring those variant curveballs, for 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.”

The Omicron and its subvariants have been dominant in the United States since December.

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