Drugmakers are racing to develop new vaccines that aim to target the omicron variant, a coronavirus disease that has mutations that suggest it can evade immunity provided by vaccination or natural infection.
Moderna’s chief medical officer, Dr. Paul Burton, said Monday in an interview on Granthshala News Now’s “Hailee Jackson Now” that the company has begun work on a version of its vaccine to address the new disease. Pfizer and BioNTech said they can develop an Omicron-specific vaccine within six weeks and ship the initial batch within 100 days if needed. Johnson & Johnson also said It’s Pursuing a Modified Vaccine And will take it forward as needed.
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However, it is not clear whether a new vaccine will also be needed.
Shots in earlier development and clinical trials for other types, including beta and delta, were later found unnecessary because existing vaccines proved highly effective or the strain in question had simply “fizzled”, said John Moore, professor of microbiology. and immunology at Weill Cornell Medical College.
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The delta version, for example, remains the most contagious version of the virus, he said, but vaccines are still proven to provide protection against it.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study published in September found that when the delta variant took effect in the summer, unvaccinated people were 4½ times more likely to be infected, 10 times more likely to be hospitalized, and more likely to be hospitalized. was 11 times more likely. Covid deaths compared to vaccinated individuals.
In other words, existing vaccines worked against the delta variant.
“So at that time it was not necessary for Delta to manufacture and roll out a specific variant vaccine,” Moore said. Referring to the Food and Drug Administration, he said, “It’s a huge, I mean, huge investment, when you have to make new products and get it tested by the FDA, even if it’s under a fast-track process.” “
The beta version, first identified in South Africa, was another strain that was once thought to require an updated version of the vaccine. In fact, existing vaccines were significantly less protective against infection with beta, but this variant never spread as widely in North America, Europe and other parts of the world as Delta did. He said that it may be necessary to develop a shot for the beta, but the version did not take off.
“It’s a key unknown to Omicron,” Moore said. “Is Omicron going to be like Beta and not outperform Delta and just fade away or is it going to be a super version of Delta and that’s something we really need to be worried about. the wanted?”
“Whether or not they will need to roll out a new vaccine depends on a significant number of unknowns that will emerge over the next few weeks,” he said.
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The World Health Organization said last week that preliminary evidence suggested “an increased risk of reinfection with this type, compared to other” forms of concern. The new strain also has mutations that are associated with higher transmissibility and potentially reduced antibody protection, it said.
Pfizer spokeswoman Jerrika Pitts said none of the previous versions have escaped the protection of its vaccine in laboratory studies or real-world observations. When considering whether to ask the FDA to authorize a new vaccine, the company said, it needs to first understand that it can “neutralize the version” in laboratory studies.
The company said it also needs to see whether Omicron can outpace Delta outside the current hot spots in South Africa or if its rapid spread in the country is “an isolated case”.
Dr. Michele Nusenzwig, an immunologist at Rockefeller University in New York, said if health officials see a significant increase in the number of people being hospitalized with COVID, there is “good reason” to launch a type-specific vaccine. Will happen.
But it is “not yet clear,” he wrote in an email. “There is no actual data available, only estimates based on the rates of reporting the sequence, which is increasing rapidly, and data on viruses with associated mutations.”
Even if the vaccines do hit against Omicron, Moore said, the chances of any “all vaccine destroying immunity is very, very, very, very slim.”
“If worst-case scenario, you would expect to see more infections in vaccinated people, but you wouldn’t expect to see a huge increase in deaths because there would still be some protective immunity.”
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