(CTN News) – An independent panel of vaccine experts at the Food and Drug Administration recommended new Covid-19 shots targeting the omicron variant this fall when public health officials expect a new wave of infections.
This is the first time the panel has proposed that vaccine makers modify shots to target a different variant.
FDA will likely accept the committee’s recommendation and authorize the vaccine change. The panel did not recommend which omicron subvariant the shots should target.
Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax all developed vaccines against the original Covid strain that emerged in Wuhan, China, in 2019.
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Although they still generally protect against severe disease, the vaccines have become less effective as the virus has evolved rapidly over the course of the pandemic.
Vaccines target the spike protein used by viruses to infect humans. It becomes increasingly difficult for the shots to recognize and attack the spike as the virus mutates.
Among the most dramatic variants yet is the omicron variant, which has over 30 mutations. That is why omicron caused such a massive wave of infections last winter despite the fact that millions of people were fully vaccinated.
Fall booster campaign
As Omicron mutates, it becomes more contagious. Covid outbreaks are likely this fall and winter as the virus evolves, vaccine immunity wanes, and people spend more time indoors where it can spread more easily.
As a result, Marks told the committee that a booster campaign is important to help protect us this fall.
We believe the better the match between the vaccine and the circulating strain, the better the vaccine’s effectiveness and its potential durability.”
In the most optimistic projections, 95,000 additional people could die in the U.S. from Covid by March 2023, according to Justin Lessler, an epidemiologist at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.
According to him, 211,000 people could die from the virus by March of next year. Lessler cautioned, however, that these projections are uncertain.
A three-dose dose of the current vaccine is only 19% effective in preventing infection with omicron among adults ages 18 and older 150 days or more after administration, according to CDC data.
CDC official Dr. Ruth Link-Gelles says that omicron has evolved into the more contagious BA.2 and BA.2.12.1 subvariants.
Among adults 120 days or more after receiving the shot, a third dose prevented 55% of hospitalizations from these subvariants.
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