The World Health Organization is calling on vaccine manufacturers to future-proof COVID jab instead of focusing on rolling out regular boosters.
The agency’s Technical Advisory Group on COVID-19 Vaccine Composition (TAG-CO-VAC) released a report this week saying plans to regularly roll out COVID boosters are not sustainable.
This puts the WHO in direct opposition to Pfizer, whose CEO Albert Bourla said earlier this week that Covid could be around the next decade, but will be controlled by regular booster shots produced by the company.
Pfizer is the leading vaccine manufacturer for the US and many countries around the world. The company has raised millions of dollars in vaccine purchase contracts since the jabs first became available in December 2020.
The continued use of booster shots to control COVID may prove to be essential, and will certainly result in a huge financial loss for the New York-based firm.
The World Health Organization is calling on vaccine manufacturers to work on developing longer-lasting, stronger, vaccines that will be effective against future COVID variants. The agency’s TAG-CO-VAC working group believes that routine delivery of booster shots is not possible. Pictured: A man in Los Angeles, California receives a shot of a COVID-19 vaccine on January 7
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla (pictured) said earlier this week that regular COVID booster shots would be necessary to control the virus over the next ten years.
‘With the near and medium-term supply of available vaccines, the need for equity in access to vaccines across countries to achieve global public health goals, program considerations including vaccine demand, and virus evolution, on repeated boosters Dose based vaccination strategy of the original vaccine composition is unlikely to be reasonable or sustainable,’ TAG-CO-VAC wrote.
The current crop of vaccines have been recognized by health officials as safe and effective, but the protection offered by the shots diminishes over time.
Even before the rise of the vaccine-invasive Omicron COVID variant, health officials in the US, Israel and several European countries were injecting booster shots to make up for gaps in vaccine safety that opened up over time.
In the US, a person is recommended to receive a booster dose for six months from receiving the Pfizer vaccine, five months from Moderna, or two months from receiving the Johnson & Johnson jab.
WHO working group says future vaccines: ‘should be based on strains that are genetically and antigenically close to circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants’
‘In addition to protecting against serious illness and death, to be more effective in protecting against infection thus reducing community transmission and requiring stringent and comprehensive public health and social measures
‘Elicit immune responses that are broad, robust and long-lasting to reduce the need for frequent booster doses.’
The rise of Omicron has only increased the demand for booster shots. The variant, which was first discovered by South African health officials in November, is the most mutated strain to date, and more than 30 mutations on its spike protein allow it to evade vaccine antibodies that protect against infection.
It is the most infectious strain of the virus yet, which has caused cases in the US to reach record highs. As of Wednesday, the US is reporting an average of 786,000 new cases per day, the highest since the virus first emerged in March 2020.
Studies show that booster shots re-establish that protection against infection. Pfizer and its partner BioNTech also plan to rollout a booster compliant with Omicron by the end of March.
Borla said earlier this week that regular use of booster shots would be key to controlling the pandemic in the future.
“We’ll lead completely normal lives, with just injections maybe once a year,” he told CNBC on Monday, noting that these routine shots could be needed for up to ten years.
The WHO has long criticized the rollout of booster doses in high-income countries such as the US and UK while other countries struggle to vaccinate their populations.
While the US sits on a stockpile of untapped vaccines, for example, only about 15 percent of the continent’s population has received at least one dose of jabs.
In August, ahead of Omicron’s discovery, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for a two-month moratorium for booster shots, with the hope that the developing world would instead donate additional doses to countries with less access to the shots.
The WHO has long been critical of the rollout of booster shots. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for a moratorium on the distribution of additional shots in August, and warned that if more people in the developing world do not have access to shots, a more infectious, vaccine-avoidable, version will eventually emerge. . Months later, the Omicron variant was discovered by South African health officials.
Only about 15% of Africans have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, the lowest of any continent. Image: A man in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, received a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine
‘Vaccine injustice and vaccine nationalism’ increase the risk of more infectious forms emerging, Tedros said back in August, adding to a prediction that a variant like Omicron would eventually emerge.
‘The virus will have a chance to circulate in countries with low vaccination coverage, and the delta variant may evolve to become more virulent, and more potent versions may emerge as well.’
Many of these countries not only do not have access to shots like developed countries, but they do not have the necessary resources to run strong vaccination campaigns.
Because of this, TAG-CO-VAC is pushing Pfizer and other manufacturers to use existing knowledge about Omicron and other strains of the virus to develop longer-lasting vaccines, and that have properties such as: Which will make them resistant to future variants.