On Tuesday, government advisers voted it’s time to tweak shots to match the most recent coronavirus variants. The FDA will decide the exact recipe but expect a combination shot. The updated vaccine will add additional protection against a version of the super-contagious omicron variant.
FDA advisers voted 19-2 that some version of omicron should be part of a fall booster campaign. It is an effort to blunt an expected COVID-19 surge. “We are going to be behind the eight-ball if we wait longer,” agreed Dr. Mark Sawyer of the University of California, San Diego.
Coronavirus Vaccines and Booster Shots
The COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots are the best protection against hospitalization and death. Unfortunately, their ability to block infection dropped drastically when the omicron mutant emerged. Pfizer and Moderna tested updated shots to match the omicron better. The newest omicron cousins are BA.4 and BA.5, making up half of U.S. cases.
Meanwhile, only about half of vaccinated Americans have received a single booster. Furthermore, a second booster is recommended for people over 50. However, only a quarter of those eligible has received one. Authorities hope an updated booster for fall might entice more interest.
WHO believes the updated shots will be more beneficial as a booster than replace the first vaccine. “We don’t want the world to lose confidence in vaccines that are currently available,” said Dr. Kanta Subbarao, a virologist who chairs the WHO committee
What is the New Recipe?
Moderna and Pfizer found what scientists call “bivalent” shots boosted levels of antibodies capable of fighting the omicron variant. Bivalent shots are a combination of the original vaccine plus omicron protection. Many scientists favor the new approach because it preserves the original vaccines’ benefits. In addition, both companies found the updated shot boosted antibodies against BA.4 and BA.5, but not by much.
Although the panelists voted for a new booster shot recipe, that doesn’t mean everyone would get the tweaked booster. The new booster may only be for adults over 50 or individuals at high risk for the virus.