The World Health Organization is warning that to combat emerging variants, getting multiple COVID-19 booster doses of existing vaccines may not be enough.
Instead, we need to develop new vaccines that are designed to fight new variants and be more effective at reducing transmission, according to a statement from the WHO‘s Technical Advisory Group on COVID-19 Vaccine Composition (TAG-CO-VAC) on Tuesday.
“A vaccination strategy based on repeated booster doses of the original vaccine composition is unlikely to be appropriate or sustainable,” the group said.
In other words, repeatedly using the same boosters against different variants probably won’t work forever.
They argued that although some countries are already recommending multiple booster shots, the more immediate global priority is to get everyone vaccinated with their first round of doses.
This point about vaccine inequality is one that WHO officials have been hammering at for weeks.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the WHO, has said that we should aim to get 70% of the world’s population fully vaccinated by the middle of this year. That’s the hump we need to get over to end the pandemic, according to Dr. Tedros.
Current estimates suggest we are at around the 50% mark globally.
Vaccine makers have already said they’re working on new versions of their vaccine targeted at the Omicron variant, although they haven’t been released yet.
The TAG-CO-VAC also put together a wish list for a new vaccine.
They said that while our current available vaccines have been effective in reducing severe disease and death, the next round of vaccines should additionally be more effective at preventing infection and transmission. They also want vaccines that are based on today’s variants, and they want protection to last longer.
They add that a “pan” COVID vaccine would be ideal because it would be a “more sustainable long-term option that would effectively be variant-proof.”
They didn’t say how exactly the wish list can be fulfilled, but they did mention that the WHO is “committed to facilitating” collaboration and the sharing of information between its teams, vaccine manufacturers and regulatory authorities.
Health Canada has a robust website with all the latest information on COVID-19 vaccines and can answer any questions you may have.