Repeated Booster Doses of COVID Vaccines Not Good Strategy, Need New Jabs for Better Protection: WHO

The WHO expert group said that preliminary data indicated the existing vaccines were less effective at preventing symptomatic Covid disease in people who have contracted the new Omicron variant, currently spreading like wildfire around the world.

Updated: January 12, 2022 7:55 AM IST

By India.com News Desk | Edited by Rajashree Seal

A health worker holds a vial of a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine in Guwahati, Monday, Jan. 10, 2022. PTI
A health worker holds a vial of a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine in Guwahati, Monday, Jan.10, 2022. (PTI photo)

New Delhi: Amid the surge of COVID-19 infections and the high transmissibility of the emerging variants of concern, the World Health Organisation (WHO) experts on Tuesday warned that repeating booster doses of the original Covid vaccines is not a viable strategy against emerging variants and called for new and updated coronavirus vaccines that provide better protection. The health agency has said that current Covid-19 vaccines may need to be updated if they are to provide continued protection against emerging variants, including Omicron.

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The group of 18 experts created by the health body to assess the performance of Covid-19 vaccines said simply providing fresh jabs of existing Covid vaccines as new strains of the virus emerge was not the best way to fight the pandemic. Issuing a statement, WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Covid-19 Vaccine Composition (TAG-Co-VAC) said, “A vaccination strategy based on repeated booster doses of the original vaccine composition is unlikely to be appropriate or sustainable.”

“A vaccination strategy based on repeated booster doses of the original vaccine composition is unlikely to be appropriate or sustainable. Covid-19 vaccines that have high impact on prevention of infection and transmission, in addition to the prevention of severe disease and death, are needed and should be developed.”

The WHO expert group further said that preliminary data indicated the existing vaccines were less effective at preventing symptomatic Covid disease in people who have contracted the new Omicron variant, currently spreading like wildfire around the world. But protection against severe disease, which is what the jabs were especially intended to do, “is more likely to be preserved”.

It recommended developing vaccines that not only protect people against falling seriously ill but could also better prevent infection and transmission in the first place.”Covid-19 vaccines that have high impact on prevention of infection and transmission, in addition to the prevention of severe disease and death, are needed and should be developed,” TAG-Co-VAC said.

Such updates need to be based on strains that are genetically and antigenically close to the circulating variants. They should also elicit “broad, strong, and long-lasting” responses in order to “reduce the need for successive booster doses,” WHO added. The experts have encouraged Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers to provide data on the performance of current and Omicron-specific vaccines, to help decide when changes to vaccine composition may be required.

“Until such vaccines are available, and as the SARS-CoV-2 virus evolves, the composition of current Covid-19 vaccines may need to be updated, to ensure that (they) continue to provide WHO-recommended levels of protection against infection and disease by VOCs (variants of concern), including Omicron and future variants.”

Regarding the current Omicron variant, the experts emphasised the importance of wider global access to current Covid-19 vaccines.

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Published Date: January 12, 2022 7:49 AM IST

Updated Date: January 12, 2022 7:55 AM IST