US regulators plan to decide by early July whether to change the design of COVID-19 vaccines this fall to target newer variants of the coronavirus, with hopes of launching a booster campaign by October, a senior said Food and Drug Administration official further Tuesday.
“The better the match of vaccines with the circulating strain, we believe, may improve vaccine efficacy and potentially lead to better durability of protection,” said Dr Meeting of the Agency’s External Expert Advisors.
The committee is scheduled to vote on a recommendation on whether to make the change later on Tuesday.
The updated shots are likely to be redesigned to fight the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, experts say. The exact composition of the upgraded vaccines and whether they contain parts of the original vaccine in addition to new components will be discussed at the meeting.
Pfizer Inc, Moderna Inc and Novavax Inc also presented data at the meeting. All three companies have been testing versions of their vaccines that have been updated to target the Omicron variant BA.1, which led to a massive spike in infections last winter.
Both Moderna and Pfizer with partner BioNTech have stated that their respective newly designed vaccines generate a better immune response against BA.1 than their current vaccines, which were developed for the original virus from China.
They said their new vaccines also appear to be active against the more recently circulating BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants, although this protection is not as strong as against BA.1.
One question under consideration is whether manufacturers should update their vaccines to better align with the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants.
dr Kanta Subbarao, a moderator representing a World Health Organization advisory committee also looking into the issue, suggested that BA.1-based vaccines would elicit a broader immune response because this variant is more different than the original version than its successor -Subvariants.
“Our goal here is to achieve broader immunity against circulating and emerging variants,” Subbarao said, noting that uncertainty about the trajectory of the virus’ evolution made it difficult to work out which variant might be circulating in the fall.
(Reporting by Michael Erman; Additional reporting by Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago and Leroy Dsouza in Bengaluru; Editing by Bill Berkrot)
This content appears to be provided by the original wire service to The Globe. It has not been edited by Globe staff.