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FDA Experts Recommend Updated Booster Shots To Fight Contagious Omicron Variant In Fall

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The Food and Drug Administration's panel of independent vaccine experts recommended updating Covid vaccines to fight presently circulating strains of omicron as the United States is expecting a Covid outbreak this fall, reports said.

The FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee voted 19 to 2 to recommend that vaccine makers modify the shots to target the omicron variant, which is continuing to evolve into more contagious subvariants.

The FDA, which generally accepts the committee's recommendation, is expected to authorize a vaccine change. The panel is yet to identify the omicron subvariant that the vaccine makers should target.

The vaccines, developed by drug majors Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, among others, mainly target the initial Covid strain that emerged in 2019. Meanwhile, over the course of the pandemic, the virus has evolved rapidly into many strains, including Omicron, and the vaccines become less effective and its immunity wanes.

As per reports, Omicron caused a huge wave of infections last winter in the country even as millions were fully vaccinated.

Pfizer and Moderna later developed vaccines against the original version of the omicron variant, BA.1, which is no longer circulating in the country. A more contagious omicron subvariant, BA.2, became dominant over the spring, while subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 are now being circulated and becoming dominant.

Peter Marks, who heads the FDA's vaccine division, reportedly told the committee that they need to give serious consideration to a booster campaign this fall. "The better the match of the vaccine to the circulating strain, we believe may correspond to improved vaccine effectiveness and potentially to a better durability of protection," he said.

Last week, Pfizer and BioNTech SE announced positive data from the Phase 2/3 trial, which showed that a booster dose of Omicron-adapted vaccine candidates elicited a substantially higher immune response against Omicron BA.1 as compared to the companies' current COVID-19 vaccine. Pfizer reportedly said that its vaccine works against BA.4 and BA.5 strains, but not as effectively as BA.1.

Moderna recently revealed new clinical data on its bivalent (Omicron) COVID booster candidate, which elicited potent neutralizing antibody responses against the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5.

Data presented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that three doses of the current vaccines are just 19 percent effective at preventing infection from omicron among adults 150 days or more after administration. Further, a third dose was 55 percent effective at preventing hospitalization from subvariants among adults 120 days or more after receiving the vaccine.

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