Moderna and Pfizer ran trials on the updated versions of COVID shots to address the concern around morphing coronaviruses. They found the quickly transmissible Omicron variant has a different shape now, which prevented it from working with older products made by U.S. companies. The FDA committee came together to decide whether or not they would recommend that the Omicron changes warranted COVID 19 boosters that can specifically target the new variant. Of the 21 committee members, only two votes were not in favor of this. According to Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Wayne Marasco, who favors this move, there is a need to expand our immune response system. It is fascinating that such possibilities are available.
Dr. Wayne Marasco believes new shots can fight the prevalent coronavirus strain. Still, one must keep a watch over the process while progressing in this direction. If you are unaware, these variants have already featured in WHO’s monitoring list since March. As per the CDC, two descending BA.4 and BA.5 variants are the most dominant in the U.S., causing almost 52% of infections. In June midweek, these sublineages claimed over one-third of the cases. The one-week coverage tracked 101,378 COVID incidences, demonstrating an increase of 2.9% from the previous week.
The future of COVID-19 vaccines
There is unanimity that future COVID-19 shots in the U.S. will not be the same. The committee doesn’t know how it will be different, but they said that this vaccine could look very different from whatever we have. According to FDA’s Dr. Peter Marks, members will discuss what kinds of vaccines people require in the next few years and what kinds of boosters they can be. However, there seems to be agreement that bivalent vaccines can be the best fit for immunization against this virus as it covers both major strains. The FDA also reported that people might have to go for flu and COVID shots yearly during the fall season as the fall-winter period usually witnesses the spike.
The challenge that lies ahead
An independent vaccine committee adviser Dr. Arnold Monto thinks it is not easy to decide the components of the boosters. Scientists developed a solution based on the data that was accessible to them, and the advisors evaluated the options to suggest what may work. Creating a vaccine to target rapidly self-mutating viruses is an unknown space. One cannot rely on the previous experiences also because of the highly baffling nature of the virus.
In addition, there is a doubt about how much the public will be willing to embrace the new solution. In hindsight, nearly 60% of Americans want authorities to remove COVID restrictions in parks, workplaces, and other areas, as per the survey conducted by MyBioSource. Then, a growing population of those opposing official measures is also in sight.
The outlook of the medicine-producing companies
Moderna, who has been developing the next-generation vaccine for months, said its mRNA-1273.214 is especially effective against Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5. In clinical trials, it boosted antibody responses significantly over initial prime-boost immunization. Future updates to the vaccine are in the works to help prevent newer coronavirus strains from gaining traction within the human population. The bivalent solution consists of the original COVID vaccine and a new one for the latest variant circulating in communities.
On the other hand, Pfizer has reported that its two candidate vaccines for the lethal strains of the bacteria Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 yielded better immune responses than its currently used vaccine. According to them, these vaccines could nullify BA.4 and BA.5 variants. Likewise, Novavax is another company with a nod for emergency use for its protein-based vaccine. Their updated vaccines can be accessible for COVID-19 and COVID and flu.
The health leaders opine that current solutions are evolved and better, but these offer only short-term relief, whereas there is a need to be faster than the constantly changing virus. According to The World Health Organization, vaccines with broader protection are much better than those that target the original COVID strain. The committee members also ponder over the processes to streamline everything if people have to go for regular booster shots for the virus. Centralized efforts can play a crucial role in this.
Antibodies are one of several lines of defense your body relies on to prevent an infection from debilitating you or taking your life. They help your body identify and block things like the spike protein – a new type of coronavirus like the omicron strain shares in common with previous strains but causes even more damage and sickness when involved in an outbreak. Problematically, antibodies usually wane after time and get outnumbered easily by ever-changing spike proteins, which gives each new omicron strain more chance to cause illnesses that can result in devastation if not identified quickly enough. Hence, it is only legitimate if the thought leaders are looking to launch a broader vaccine against the virus.