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Coronavirus: Waiting for the vaccine update

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Status: 07/03/2022 01:27

Vaccines suitable for the Omicron variant should offer better protection against the corona virus in the fall. However, it is not yet known exactly when they will be launched. “Next generation” vaccines have been announced.

News from Moderna and BioNTech-Pfizer had people sit up and take notice: Both vaccine makers announced that their tailored corona vaccine elicited a good immune response against the omicron variant. The average number of neutralizing antibodies at BioNTech/Pfizer after administration of the fourth dose was two to three times higher than after administration of the unsuitable vaccine.

Moderna’s Omicron-adapted Covid-19 vaccine candidate also showed better antibody response against the highly contagious variant, according to initial study data. The vaccine – a combination of the original Moderna Spikevax vaccine and an agent directed against the omicron variant – achieved a superior neutralizing antibody response than Spikevax, the US biotech company said.

Results of laboratory studies

Efficacy data is based on laboratory studies. This means: It was not counted how many quadruple vaccinated people were infected compared to unvaccinated or non-quadruply vaccinated people.

In reality, the effectiveness could be greater or lesser, explains Rolf Hömke of the Association of Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies. This is also due to a population that has been in contact with different virus variants in the past, but also with different vaccines. For example, a person who has received a triple vaccination and has become infected may react slightly differently to a fourth vaccination than a person who has only received a double vaccination or a combination of the AstraZeneca vaccine and a vaccine with mRNA, for example. According to Hömke, this poses major challenges for companies in their studies.

In general, Professor Ulrike Protzer from the Technical University of Munich says: “The data shows that a fourth vaccination helps.” The virologist therefore recommends that risk groups in particular not wait for the appropriate vaccine. “These increased risk groups should now be vaccinated for the fourth time.” However, people who have been vaccinated three times without previous illness do not yet need a fourth vaccination. This group can wait for a suitable vaccine.

Faster approval procedures required

Like some of his colleagues, Protzer hopes for faster approval procedures in the future. Vaccine updates currently lag behind the currently dominant variants. The vaccine is suitable for the original omicron variant and not for the currently dominant BA.5 variant. Manufacturer’s data also shows that the effectiveness against this new BA5 variant is somewhat lower.

As with flu vaccines, according to virologist Protzer, manufacturers should collect the variants that occur around the world on a platform so that they can then adapt vaccines every year or even faster. To do this, however, barriers to the approval process would need to be lowered. But it’s also justifiable, says Protzer. Vaccine makers argue the same.

In the newspaper “Welt am Sonntag”, Professor Klaus Cichutek, President of the Paul Ehrlich Institute, was rather critical of the demand from the pharmaceutical companies. “Caution must remain,” the newspaper said, quoting it. Industry experts suspect there is also a fear behind it that a fast-track could damage confidence in vaccines.

Vaccines available from the fall?

Adapted vaccines play a decisive role in the vaccination campaign planned by Federal Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach (SPD). They are supposed to prevent a wave of infections in the fall. But if you ask around in the industry, no one wants to give an exact date for vaccine availability.

This week, the US regulatory authority FDA decided to rely on adapted vaccines from Moderna and BioNTech/Pfizer. Booster shots can begin in early October, says Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biological Product Evaluation and Research. “In our view, the more vaccines are matched to the circulating strain, the higher the vaccine efficacy and the longer the protection.”

In order to guard against a possible wave in the fall, the US government ordered doses worth 3.1 billion euros from BioNTech/Pfizer for a recall campaign – a total of 105 million doses of appropriate vaccine.

At a conference this week, BioNTech also announced that it would test next-generation vaccines in clinical trials with partner Pfizer in the second half. According to BioNTech, this new vaccine should then protect against a large number of corona viruses. The goal is a vaccine that protects against the entire family of the virus and its mutations.

Source www.tagesschau.de

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