An updated COVID vaccine is expected to be publicly available by the fall. Here is everything you need to know.
COVID vaccines have had a turbulent timeline. When the vaccines were released in early 2021, America and the world at large felt like an end was visible to this lengthy pandemic. But as nations rushed to innoculate their populations, new variants popped up that were able to evade the vaccinations. This led to the rise of omicron and its subvariants, which are still persisting today. An updated COVID vaccine, designed to fight the pesky omicron variants, will likely be available by the end of 2022.
Yesterday, two important companies in the fight against the pandemic, Pfizer and BioNTech, announced the updated COVID vaccine. The public declaration formally asked the Food and Drug Administration to approve the upgraded inoculation. Since more than 90% of cases are from omicron subvariants, this vaccine that targets the BA.4 and BA.5 strands would be more effective in stopping their transmission.
Both companies have already submitted trial data to the FDA, hoping for swift approval for the updated COVID vaccine. The new drug, called the “bivalent” booster, combines two different vaccine types for maximum efficacy. The booster will hopefully be able to fight the originals strand of COVID as well as the pernicious omicron subvariants. The companies hope the FDA approves the upgraded vaccine before the fall, so they have time to prepare for a nationwide rollout.
Many fear that with less rigid public health guidelines, the US is setting up its populations for more infections in the fall and winter. With masking no longer mandated indoors, omicron has the potential to initiate another surge. The updated COVID vaccine is one of the only public health procedures left to mitigate an imminent spread, which is why Pfizer and BioNTech want the FDA’s expedited approval.
Both drugmakers are taking a different approach to quickly getting the updated COVID vaccine approved. They’re adhering to new FDA guidelines where submitted data only encompasses mice trials instead of a combination of mice and human trials. Regulators will rely on that data, as well as previous human data from earlier booster studies, to make their approval decision. If everything goes according to plan, the bivalent booster will be authorized for nationwide distribution by fall.
Deepa Bhattacharya, a professor and immunologist at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, that people shouldn’t be worried about the expedited booster. Those unfamiliar with the vaccine trials should know that the bivalent booster will be authorized through a combination of tests from past vaccines. The updated COVID vaccines are working with “decades of viral immunology” to produce safe and effective immunizations for the public. Both BioNTech and Pfizer reported that they would soon start human trials for the omicron booster this month.
Since COVID was not eradicated when it was initially introduced to the globe, many scientists agree that these strains will become endemic. This means that, like the flu, new variants will pop up which require vaccine upgrades to immunize the public every year. Though this is an unfortunate outcome of the pandemic, updated COVID vaccines should help undermine the severity of the strains and their increased contagiousness.