Europe is expected to approve a COVID bivalent vaccine in September, that will cover both the original strain and the Omicron variant, Dr. Christos Petrou, Associate Professor of Pharmacology and member of the National Advisory Committee on Vaccination stated.
Dr. Petrou said that the need and optimal timing for additional booster doses in autumn and winter with the tailored vaccine may vary from country to country, especially depending on the timing of the second booster doses in spring and summer 2022, as well as evidence of continued protection against severe disease in those who have received the second booster dose.
Petrou also notes that future vaccination strategies may differ depending on the availability of updated vaccines and their characteristics, to add that countries may need to use different types of vaccines, for different strategies and population groups, depending on the characteristics of updated vaccines compared to those of the first generation and, of course, depending on the emergence of new variants.
He also stresses that it is extremely important to administer the 4th dose to people over 60 and to the vulnerable, as defined, and underlines that "they should not be complacent in anticipation of new vaccines, whenever they become available."
Referring to the twin-dose vaccine, prepared by Moderna as a booster for adults and already approved in the UK, Petrou said that this vaccine covers the original strain and the 'Omicron' variant, and appears to provide sufficient protection against 'Omicron 4' and 'Omicron 5'. Moreover, it could become available sometime during the last quarter of 2022, adding, however, that there are no clear timelines.
When asked whether coronavirus vaccines could become seasonal like the flu vaccine, Dr. Petrou answered that "it is possible that the practice followed for the flu vaccine could be applied against coronavirus", explaining that there could possibly be a twin or multi-valent vaccine platform and a strain could be changed to deal with the prevailing variant.
"Of course," he notes, "the big goal is to develop vaccines that greatly reduce the spread and transmission of the virus." According to Dr. Petrou, "this can probably be done with intranasal vaccination" adding that on this point the news from the studies is less encouraging.