U.S. COVID-19 vaccines will be recommended annually as new boosters become available to combat currently circulating variants of the coronavirus, reports Reuters.

By the end of this week, 90% of Americans will live within 5 miles of sites where the updated vaccines will be administered, and people can get a booster shot this fall or winter along with their regular annual flu shots. It will probably become an annual procedure.

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said that even if the seven-day average number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 fell by 14%, to 4,500 per day, annual vaccinations could save thousands of lives.

“Modeling projections show that an uptake of updated COVID-19 vaccine doses similar to an annual flu vaccine coverage early this fall could prevent as many as 100,000 hospitalizations and 9,000 deaths, and save billions of dollars in direct medical costs,” Walensky said.

The new vaccines target Omicron’s BA.5 and BA.4 subvariants, which account for more than 88% and 11% of circulating COVID-19 viruses, respectively. So-called bivalent vaccines also still target the original version of the virus.

American infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci believes that unless a drastic other option emerges, annual vaccines should provide sufficient protection for most people, but some vulnerable groups may need more frequent vaccinations.

“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,” Fauci said.