How new COVID booster will target more strains

Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 10:07 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 29, 2022 at 10:09 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - In just a few weeks, new bivalent COVID-19 vaccines should be available to people 12 years of age and older in the U.S.

Dr. Tim Lahey, an infectious disease expert at the UVM Medical Center, said it will target more than one strain.

“Which contain proteins from the original virus causing COVID-19 as well as updated versions more similar to what’s circulating now,” Lahey said.

Residents in the U.K. were already offered a bivalent vaccine with the OG virus and BA.1 variant, but the U.S. decided to hold off until a more current vaccine could be developed.

Lahey said this shows how different experts make varying judgment calls on things like when a surge will occur or how similar the vaccine needs to be to the current strain.

“I thought their decision was reasonable,” he said, “but also it didn’t raise my blood pressure to know that we were going to wait a little bit.”

Currently, BA.5 is the strain most prevalent in the U.S. and has been since June.

There’s hope this vaccine could be well-timed.

“So far, we haven’t seen a new variant come along that’s replacing BA.5, so with any luck, the booster that contains BA.5 proteins will be matched with what’s in the community,” Lahey said.

Instead of waiting for results from human trials, Moderna and Pfizer are submitting data based on animal trials only.

Dr. Lahey says these data though build on two years of clinical trials.

“This is very much like the influenza vaccine, which is updated each year to help people match up the virus without doing phase three clinical trials, which take too much time,” he explained.

If the expected timeline goes through, Vermonters could get the vaccine by mid-September.