Developing a version of the vaccine that can protect us against all future variants of Covid sounds ideal, but it is not going to happen soon.
“Will we ever get a universal Covid vaccine?” This question has become more valuable than you would imagine, as the omicron variant and its growing family of subvariants disannul the protection from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.
Drugmakers and many other outside researchers have gathered to discuss the topic of developing newer versions of vaccines to protect against severe illness at the World Vaccine Congress in Washington, D.C., and all agree that updates to vaccines should be made. However, they haven’t reached a consensus as to how the update can be carried out.
The prevailing idea is to create a so-called “pancoronavirus vaccine”, meaning this shot could combat the entire spectrum of the virus, including future variants. Covid-19 is caused by a strain of virus from the betacoronavirus, which is also the cause of SARS and MERS. A pancoronavirus vaccine is said to be able to protect against not only the betacoronavirus family, but the entire coronavirus family, including alpha, gamma, and deltacoronaviruses.
Moderna contends that its ideal plan for the fall is to develop a bivalent shot for both the omicron variant and the original coronavirus, but this approach is questioned by experts who argued at the conference that the subsequent problem of needing to develop a new vaccine every now and then means that it is not a sustainable solution to our current problem.
Even though our current mRNA vaccine still provides a high level of protection against infection, the fact that its effect decrease over time implies a need for a better substitute, and this substitute is not going to be easy to find. Some predominant factors are the ease at which the shot can be mass-produced, the incentives for manufacturers to invest, and most obviously, financial issues with research and development.
Scientists can "create the great technology but we have to see how it can be financed," said Dr. Maria Bottazzi, co-director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
It seems that the general public might need to temper its expectations, and it is still a long way to go for the researchers.