(WXYZ) — Pfizer and Moderna submitted their emergency use applications for updated boosters to the Food and Drug Administration this week. And it’s possible that COVID-19 shots targeting Omicron could be ready by Labor Day.
It’s great news that new boosters are just around the corner. Both Pfizer and Moderna’s updated boosters target the original virus plus Omicron’s BA.5 and BA.4 subvariants.
But there are differences between the two mRNA shots. Pfizer’s shot is a 30-microgram dose and they’re seeking approval for people aged 12 and up. Whereas Moderna’s shot is a 50-microgram dose and they’re seeking approval for adults age 18 and up.
As for how effective the new boosters are, we don’t have many details yet.
Moderna just started human trials. So their application only includes data from mice experiments as well as data from a human trial where participants received a booster targeting Omicron’s BA.1 subvariant. That particular booster was approved in the United Kingdom.
As for Pfizer, they will be starting their human trials soon. They too provided the FDA with data involving mice. And research found antibodies produced in mice increased protection against infection by about 2.6 fold.
Now, the FDA is reviewing the data and is reportedly close to granting authorization. Following approval, the CDC’s Advisory Committee will meet September 1st and 2nd. And if they give the green light, then Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC’s director, would most likely sign off on the updated boosters shortly thereafter.
In a perfect world, we’d have all the human data we’d need before approval. In my opinion, it’s difficult to demand an effective vaccine with extensive data when dealing with a virus that mutates so quickly. If we wait too long, then we could lag behind whatever new variant pops up.
Having said that, we’re not starting from scratch. The FDA will be looking at the totality of the available evidence. So it’s not based just on data based on mice, but also data from previous human trials for variant vaccines including beta, delta, and omicron BA.1.
As for safety, it should not be any different than with vaccines based on previous variants. Also, the whole process is very similar to how scientists select and test which strains need to be included in the annual flu vaccine. So this is not new.
What we have right now is a variant that is causing almost 90% of new COVID cases in the US. And school is about to kick off and cooler weather is just around the corner. So having an updated booster that is actually targeting the current dominant strain will – in my opinion - help curb more infections this fall and winter.
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View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.
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