Image copyright EPA Image caption The CDC has approved the booster dose for a number of vaccines approved under the National Childhood Immunization Program
A National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panel has approved two booster doses of the vaccination against the influenza virus for adults.
In its final report on COVID-19, which the CDC will likely recommend next year, the panel said more adults needed to be vaccinated against this particular virus strain.
And WHO has said the two new doses could help reduce deaths from the virus.
A single shot of this vaccine is already given to all children, although influenza is increasingly regarded as a life-threatening illness.
The cold temperatures and short seasons make this the ideal time to get a flu vaccination, so the decision to do so – although previously made by individual healthcare professionals – will now be taken across the board.
COVID-19, which is a previously approved vaccine, has been updated with additional disease strains for each seasonal flu strain, as well as some that people had not known were present, such as Japanese flu, which is a different strain from bird flu, although the bird flu variety kills a lot of people.
The NAS and FDA committees found that the main risk associated with having to vaccinate adults was that if the flu shots were unsuccessful they could develop and spread flu and could expose others to the disease.
By doing so, they are making a recommendation which would let all adults receive the vaccine.
One of the recommendations is to prevent people from developing flu when they have come down with colds and coughs, both of which can kill a lot of people.
It is likely that both the CDC and WHO will now publicly recommend to their directors that these adults also be vaccinated – and the decision would then go through the appropriate formal channels.
Professor Claudia Dawson, of the University of Leicester, said: “We know there are more adults dying of influenza than ever before; this recommendation will enable millions more to be vaccinated every year against flu.”
Professor Ken Stewart, from the University of Edinburgh’s Edinburgh Vaccine Centre, told the BBC: “We do know that the populations are becoming younger and have more exposure to seasonal influenza.”
“You also have a lot of pregnant women and that includes every pregnancy. So there are some additional nuances we need to think about.”
Symptoms of flu can include fever, headache, sore throat, muscle and joint aches, chills, diarrhoea and vomiting.
Between 36,000 and 56,000 people – including 2,300 children – die every year from influenza or its complications.
The shot would be most appropriate for people aged between 50 and 64.
Professor Eva Goertz, director of vaccine discovery at Pfizer, told the BBC that the last time Pfizer developed an influenza vaccine was in the 1980s and they believed adult vaccination was still a “highly underused, under researched field”.
She said: “We think we’re really at a time when enough vaccines are available to basically get to where we want to be.
“We hope there is absolutely demand to try and get to 100% vaccination.”
CINV, the coalition of 12 health and disability charities, praised the Committee for making this decision, which came after a lengthy process.
It added: “For the young and those who already have limited access to healthcare, working in the UK it is vital that everyone is vaccinated – especially pregnant women and those with chronic health conditions.”
In August, the WHO issued a global alert, saying there was a risk of the virus infecting a larger proportion of the population this year.