COVID-19 vaccine developers are making increasingly bold claims that the world will need booster vaccines or new vaccines every year to treat coronavirus variants, but some scientists question when or if they will be needed.
In an interview with Reuters, more than a dozen influential infectious diseases and vaccine development experts said there was growing evidence that the first round of global vaccines could provide lasting protection against the coronavirus and its most worrying variants to date.
Some of these scientists have expressed concern that the public’s expectations of COVID-19 amplifiers are set by drug managers rather than health professionals, although many agreed that it should be prepared with caution as a precaution.
They fear that affluent nations are calling for re-vaccination as early as this year, deepening the gap with poorer countries struggling to buy vaccines, and it could take years for their citizens to be vaccinated once.
“We don’t yet see the data that would make a decision on whether or not reminders are needed,” said Kate O’Brien, director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Department of Vaccination, Vaccination and Biology.
O’Brien said the WHO will set up a panel of experts to evaluate all variation and vaccination efficacy data and recommend changes to vaccination programs as needed.
Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer Inc. (PFE.N), said people “will likely” need a booster vaccine every 12 months – similar to the annual flu vaccine – of the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and its variants.
“Zero, and I mean zero evidence, suggests that this is the case,” opposed Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the U.S. Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
“It’s completely wrong to say we’ll probably need an annual reminder because we have no idea what that’s likely,” Pfizer said of Pfizer’s claims, Frieden, who now leads the global public health initiative to save Resolve to Life. amplifiers.
In response to criticism, Pfizer said amplifiers are needed while the virus is still widespread. That could change if the pandemic is kept under tighter control, a company spokesman said.
Stephane Bancel, CEO of Moderna Inc. (MRNA.O), is working to produce a vaccine by the fall that targets a variant previously identified in South Africa and expects regular boosters to be needed.
The United States is preparing to have such doses on hand for Americans, while the European Union, Britain, and Israel have ordered new COVID-19 vaccine kits that can be used as a protective effect.
Some health experts, including Richard Hatchett, CEO of the Epidemic Preparedness Innovation Coalition (CEPI), which has funded a number of vaccine projects, say vaccine manufacturers are right to pre-design boosters given the uncertainty of what will be needed in the long run.
Governments can then decide to buy the products themselves, he said.
Pfizer and German partner BioNTech SE have so far found that their shot remained more than 91% effective for six months after people received the second dose, compared to nearly 95% shown in their clinical trial. Companies keep track of how well protection stays up over time.
Dr. William Gruber, Pfizer’s vice president of vaccine clinical research and development, told Reuters earlier this month that the forecast for annual boosters is based on “little evidence” of a decline in immunity over those six months.
Pfizer expects the COVID-19 vaccine to have made a significant revenue contribution over the years and has projected sales of $ 26 billion from the 2021 shot. According to U.S. health data, global spending on COVID-19 and booster vaccines could reach $ 157 billion by 2025. data company IQVIA Holdings (IQV.N).
Stephen Hoge, the president of the modern, expects boosters to be needed to maintain high levels of immunity, in part because of the hesitation of vaccinations, as an estimated 30% of the U.S. population refuses to consent to vaccinations. As long as the virus circulates widely, people at risk for a serious illness may need to boost their immune defenses, Hoge said.
“Every government is talking to (Moderna) and other companies about amplifiers,” he said.
At the end of last year, scientists were confident that highly effective vaccines could quickly curb the global epidemic that hit economies and killed more than 3.4 million people.
These hopes were blurred by February with evidence that mutant versions of the virus could escape the protection provided by vaccines. Laboratory studies have shown that the South African variant can cause a six- to eight-fold decrease in antibody levels in people vaccinated with Pfizer or Moderna.
Data from clinical trials also showed that AstraZeneca Plc (AZN.L), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) and Novavax Inc. (NVAX.O) vaccines were less effective in preventing infections in South Africa, where version is widespread.
These studies have encouraged drug manufacturers to begin testing vaccine reminders and develop recordings that target specific variants of the virus.
However, recent research suggests that Moderna and Pfizer / BioNTech vaccines produce high levels of protective antibodies to create a “pillow effect” against known variants, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergic and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and Chief Adviser to the White House.
And antibodies – which prevent the coronavirus from attaching to human cells – don’t tell the whole story. Numerous studies suggest that T cells — a type of white blood cell that can target and kill cells that are already infected — can help prevent severe COVID-19 and hospitalization.
NIAID researchers have found that T cells in the blood of people who have recovered from the original virus are still able to fight infections caused by the affected variants in the UK, South Africa and Brazil.
“It’s entirely possible” that there would be no need for amplifiers, Fauci told Reuters. “It is possible that the variants do not pose as much of a problem with a really good vaccine as we could have expected.”
Nevertheless, health authorities in the United States, Britain and Europe are assuring their populations that a new round of shooting will be available if needed, with many nations still desperately waiting for vaccine supplies.
“It is a huge concern that … rich countries will start giving reminders and further restrict people’s first supply of vaccines,” said Rajeev Venkayya, head of global vaccinations at Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. (4502.T).
Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease doctor at the University of California, San Francisco, finally said that decisions about the need for a booster are “best made by public health experts, not CEOs of a company that could benefit financially.”
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