If you require another Covid-19 booster shot this fall, it might not be the same one you got before.
Coronavirus instances may resurface in the colder months, according to US health officials, and scientists are still evaluating if another injection is required. If Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna have its way, a next series of vaccinations will include a new formulation that targets the supercontagious omicron variety, or possibly two coronavirus strains, rather than just one.
This fall, the world will require an updated Covid vaccine that is “tailored to the right combination of variations,” according to Moderna Chief Medical Officer Dr. Paul Burton.
In the United States and other parts of the world, Omicron-fueled Covid cases are on the decline. Still, according to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other top health experts, the coronavirus is here to stay, with Covid likely becoming a seasonal virus, comparable to influenza. Viruses have the ability to evolve.
Nobody knows what is the most common variety will be in the coming months, however experts, notably those who are at the World Health Organization, believe that existing vaccinations may need to be modified to ensure that they continue to provide greater protection against severe sickness and death.
Pfizer and Moderna’s existing booster doses are still formulated to target the coronavirus’s initial version, which was discovered in late 2019. This fall, Moderna believes the dominant strain will be a familiar one: omicron, delta, or a descendent of either.
“Delta is still around, and omicron will be around for a long time,” Burton added. “These varieties will now travel to the Southern Hemisphere, where they will either continue to multiply or mutate.” Moderna and Pfizer are both testing new omicron-specific injections, that have started clinical trials and could be available by the fall.
Moderna also is working on a “bivalent” vaccine, which mixes an omicron-specific vaccination with the company’s original recipe in one dose. The bivalent vaccine, which Burton describes as the drugmaker’s “preferred option” for the autumn, is set to enter human trials in the “coming weeks,” according to Burton.
Who’s going to require a second dose of vaccination?
According to Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccination expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, if a new booster is approved, only some Americans will need to get the shot.
In healthy patients, the protection afforded by the first two doses of the mRNA vaccines against severe sickness, hospitalisation, and death appears to be holding up, he said. Those in nursing homes, the elderly, the immunocompromised, and those with high-risk illnesses, however, may benefit from an extra dose, according to Offit.Gounder agreed that patients who are at risk should have the extra shot, especially if it is demonstrated to provide broader protection. However, she is concerned that introducing a new vaccine would exacerbate vaccine apprehension among some people, particularly those who are already wary of vaccinations.
Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, said that health care practitioners may offer new vaccines alongside the flu shot this fall, and possibly others in the future. His institute is working on a “roadmap” for a pan-coronavirus vaccine, which will outline the research and development, funding, and use of the vaccines.
Scientists continuously monitor influenza strains and choose three to four that they believe will be extensively spreading to be included in the flu vaccination each year. According to Baylor of Biologics Consulting, it’s too early to tell which coronavirus types will be dominant, but there’s mounting evidence that existing vaccinations, although still providing protection against hospitalisation and death, aren’t as effective against virus infection. He believes it’s past time to alter immunizations to target the circulating dominant strain.
“With the original, it’s really nice, but might it be better?” he wondered. “Until we see the data, I’m not sure.”