CDC advisors are considering what’s next for Covid-19 boosters
CDC advisors are considering what’s next for Covid-19 boosters

CDC advisors are considering what’s next for Covid-19 boosters

“Policies regarding future doses require continued evaluation of Covid-19 epidemiology and vaccine efficacy, including the effects of both time and variants, and the ability of doses to improve this protection,” CDC Dr. Sara Oliver, an epidemic intelligence officer with the Department of Viral Diseases, said at the meeting.

Before recommending future doses of Covid-19 vaccines, Oliver said, committee members would need to assess the country’s recent cases, hospitalization rates, vaccine efficacy – including whether it decreases over time – and the effects of circulating coronavirus variants.

As the virus continues to evolve, “the development of Covid vaccines will be important,” including the vaccine platforms, Oliver said.

The Covid-19 vaccinations that people are getting in the future may be completely different formulations than what is being given now, which is based on the original version of the virus that appeared in late 2019.

The next booster may be a new vaccine

Some companies, including Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna, are developing variant-specific vaccines that can target any strain of coronavirus that circulates when the booster may be needed. Pfizer and Moderna are working on vaccines that will specifically protect against the Omicron variant, although it is not clear if this is necessary.

The time it takes to manufacture a vaccine – once it has been decided to change or update the composition of that vaccine – is also not clear.

But for the vaccines that are now available, a decision must be made to change them “by the beginning of the summer” if a vaccination campaign should be necessary in the autumn, says Dr. Doran Fink, deputy director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Department of Vaccines, said at Wednesday’s meeting.

That’s what Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has said the company also hopes to make a vaccine which will protect against Omicron as well as all other variants of coronavirus.

The goal is to create “something that can protect for at least a year,” Bourla told CBS in March. “And if we are able to achieve that, then I think it’s very easy to follow and remember so we can go back to the real road. [we] used to live. “

Moderna announced on Tuesday that its first bivalent Covid-19 booster shot candidate – which combines elements of the current vaccine with updates based on the Beta variant – induced higher antibody responses to all variants of concern than the company’s original Covid-19 booster.

Moderna has developed updated booster candidates to target new coronavirus variants, and it also has monovalent (based on a single virus strain) candidates on the way.

Its first bivalent booster candidate, called mRNA-1273,211, was well tolerated, the company said, and a preprint study published last week to the online server Research Square found that it elicited higher antibody responses than Modern’s current booster shots against the original coronavirus and the Beta, Delta and Omicron variants.

Modern scientists wrote in the study that the safety profile of a 50 microgram dose of the mRNA.1273.211 booster candidate was comparable to that of the current 50 microgram vaccine dose.

The study has not been peer-reviewed or published in a professional journal.

Despite the booster candidate’s superiority over the original vaccine, Moderna CEO St├ęphane Bancel said in a press release Tuesday that a separate bivalent candidate that combines the current vaccine with an Omicron-specific one is still the company’s lead candidate to possibly roll out by the fall.

Two-in-one influenza Covid vaccines under development

Modern and biotechnology company Novavax is also working on two-in-one combination vaccines that can offer protection against both influenza and Covid-19.

Novavax is seeking FDA emergency authorization for its coronavirus vaccine

Novavax’s Covid-19 vaccine is not approved in the US, but the company submitted an application for an emergency use permit to the US Food and Drug Administration in January.

Meanwhile, it continues to study the vaccine, which combines its NVX-CoV2373 Covid-19 vaccine and its quadrivalent influenza vaccine candidate. On Wednesday, Novavax announced that the combination vaccine was “well tolerated” and induced an immune response among participants in a phase 1/2 clinical trial.

Novavax researchers evaluated the safety of different formulations of the vaccine as well as the immunological reactions they induced. The experimental data showed that the combination vaccine induced immune responses comparable to those elicited when the influenza vaccine and the Covid-19 vaccine were given separately.

A fourth Covid-19 shot could be recommended for the fall, as officials 'continuously' look at new data

The data also showed that the safety profile of the combination vaccine was consistent with the independent safety profiles for influenza and Covid-19 vaccines. Serious side effects in the trial were “rare and none were considered to be related to the vaccine,” the company said.

“We continue to evaluate the dynamic public health landscape and believe that recurring boosters may be needed to combat both COVID-19 and seasonal influenza,” said Dr. Gregory Glenn, Novavax’s President of Research and Development, in a press release. “We are encouraged by this data and the potential way forward.”

Novavax announced that the data support continuing the study for a Phase 2 trial, which is expected to begin by the end of the year.

So far, the CDC’s vaccine advisers plan to continue discussions on how to “be more proactive than reactive” when it comes to the future need for Covid-19 vaccinations, Dr. Matthew Daley, chairman of the committee’s vaccine working group and senior researcher at the Kaiser Permanente Institute for Health Research, said at Wednesday’s meeting.

“These are our marching orders,” Daley told his committee colleagues.

“We had plenty on our plate before, but then we will take what we have heard at this meeting and take it to the working group and discuss each and every one of these issues,” he said. “Given the unpredictability of the pandemic, we’ve had to be reactive, but I think it’s a place where we can also try to be more proactive.”

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