Even after we reach herd immunity, COVID booster vaccines will likely be necessary to stop variants

Credit: Sky News
Credit: Sky News

Influenza viruses are fast-changing, making it difficult for the human body to build an immune response, which is why the flu vaccine is altered and encouraged for everyone each year.

In SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, mutations allowing it to evade antibodies have already cropped up in the B.1.351 and P.1 variants. Because of this, vaccine producers such as Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson are already working on boosters for their vaccines to be more effective against variants.

A team of researchers from a German research hospital, Charite-Universitatsmedizin Berlin, looked at four common cold coronaviruses.

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“Based on the rates of evolution seen in the endemic common cold coronaviruses, we expect that SARS-CoV-2 will start to change more slowly once infections start to die down,” lead study author Dr. Jan Felix Drexler, said in the release.

Once the COVID-19 pandemic has stabilized and numbers being to drop off in earnest, vaccine updates will become less common, but until then they will need to be altered for variants, the release said.

“We expect therefore that COVID-19 vaccines will need to be monitored regularly throughout the pandemic and updated where necessary. Once the situation has stabilized, vaccines are likely to remain effective for longer,” said Felix Drexler.

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