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Friday, June 24, 2022

Are Omicron-Specific Vaccines Really Required?

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As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 started to wreak havoc around the world causing a steep rise in the number of cases, the authorities have been taken aback fearing another wave taking the lives of many as we saw in early 2021.

Thankfully, initial studies on the new variant indicate that Omicron is not as deadly as its predecessor, the Delta variant. It, however, is more contagious than the previous strains. So, the rapid increase in positivity rate has forced the global bodies to come up with a solution to this problem.

What do the experts suggest?

WHO periodically organizes consultations with an independent group of experts, the Technical Advisory Group on COVID-19 Vaccine Composition (TAG-CO-VAC), to review the evidence and analyse the implications of emerging variants on the performance of COVID-19 vaccines.

The body comprising independent experts suggested the need of more studies and research to understand if the composition of the current COVID-19 vaccines may need to be changed to ensure that they provide higher protection against the Variants of Concern (VOCs), including Omicron or any other future strains. 

Some experts have stressed on the need for COVID-19 vaccines to produce broader, stronger and lasting immune responses to eliminate the need for successive booster doses. They opined that a vaccination strategy that is based on repeated doses of the original vaccine composition is not sustainable or appropriate.

Do we need an Omicron-specific vaccine?

The WHO panel, however, did not recommend the need for an Omicron-specific vaccine at the moment. They said that this can only be considered once there is enough evidence and also requested the vaccine manufacturers to share data available to them.

Viruses keep on changing and newer variants with newer characteristics may appear in future. There are chances of more mutations coming up in future.

What’s the update on vaccines?

As many as 10 vaccine manufacturing companies around the world are currently working on bringing up vaccines for COVID-19. Moreover, a total of seven potential vaccine candidates that are still under development are being tested against the new variant. Some of these newer vaccines are expected to be released in the months to come.

Here is the list of vaccines that are under development –

  • Betuvax-CoV-2
  • Inovio (INO-4800)
  • Valneva (VLA2001)
  • Oravax
  • Gritstone (GRT-R910)
  • Daiichi Sankyo (DS-5670)
  • KM Biologics (KD-414)

UNICEF has explained that some of the above-mentioned candidates may be used as booster shots or independent vaccines against the virus.

Here is the list of already existing vaccines that are being tested against the new Omicron variant –

  • 8Pfizer/BioNTech
  • Moderna
  • Bharat Biotech’s COVAXIN
  • Serum Institute of India (SII)- COVISHIELD
  • Janssen
  • Sinopharm
  • Sinovac
  • Gamaleya
  • Novavax
  • AstraZeneca
  • Anhui ZL

Furthermore, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has also started to study the effectiveness of already existing COVID-19 vaccines – Covishield and Covaxin – against the Omicron variant.

Takeaway

Studies are under process to understand the effectiveness of existing vaccines and also to evaluate the need for any modification in the vaccine composition for better protection against the newer variants. It is important for us to know that even the existing vaccines offer good protection against severe illness and death due to COVID. while We should therefore continue to get vaccinated (if eligible), and keep ourselves safe from this highly contagious variant of COVID-19. State governments across India have already imposed multiple restrictions to contain the spread of the virus and its variants. Now, it is our responsibility to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe from the virus. So, keep following the social protocols and stay healthy!

The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.





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