World Health Organisation (WHO) experts have warned that repeating booster doses of the original Covid vaccines is not a viable strategy against emerging Covid variants and called for new jabs that better protect against transmission.
“A vaccination strategy based on repeated booster doses of the original vaccine composition is unlikely to be appropriate or sustainable,” the WHO Technical Advisory Group on Covid-19 Vaccine Composition (TAG-Co-VAC) said in a statement published on Tuesday.
The group of experts, who are working to assess the performance of Covid-19 vaccines, called for the development of new vaccines that not only continue to protect people who contract Covid against falling seriously ill but also better prevent people from catching the virus in the first place, in order to deal with emerging Covid variants such as Omicron.
“Covid-19 vaccines that have high impact on prevention of infection and transmission, in addition to the prevention of severe disease and death, are needed and should be developed,” the advisory group said.
This, it said, would help lower “community transmission and the need for stringent and broad-reaching public health and social measures”.
It also suggested that vaccine developers should strive to create jabs that “elicit immune responses that are broad, strong, and long-lasting in order to reduce the need for successive booster doses”.
As the virus evolves and until new vaccines are available, “the composition of current Covid-19 vaccines may need to be updated”, the group said.
More than 2.3 million booster shots have been administered to date in the Republic, with the booster programme here being credited with having offered greater protection to citizens amid the Omicron wave.
According to the WHO, 331 candidate vaccines for Covid-19 are being worked on around the world. The UN health agency has so far given its stamp of approval to versions of eight different vaccines.
A growing body of evidence indicates that the Omicron Covid variant is not only far more transmissible than previous variants, but also better at dodging some vaccine protections.
Earlier this week, Pfizer Inc chief executive Albert Bourla said a redesigned Covid-19 vaccine that specifically targets the Omicron variant is likely to be needed and his company could have one ready to launch by March.
Mr Bourla said Pfizer and partner BioNTech SE are working on both the new, Omicron-targeted vaccine version as well as a shot that would include both their previous vaccine as well as one targeted at the fast-spreading newer variant.
The WHO had resisted the push to roll out blanket booster programmes in the battle against new concerning variants like Omicron, saying it makes no sense as many people in poorer nations are still waiting for a first jab, dramatically increasing the chance of new, more dangerous variants emerging.
So far, more than 8 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered in at least 219 territories, according to a count by Agence France-Presse.
While more than 67 per cent of people in high-income countries have received at least one jab, fewer than 11 per cent have in low-income countries, according to UN numbers. – Guardian