Variants and Vaccines

Angie Szumlinski Health

So how well do the COVID-19 vaccines protect against novel coronavirus spinoffs? “This virus is telling us it’s going to throw out a lot of mutations”, “even if we don’t have a critical situation right at the moment, there’s a real possibility that variants will continue to evolve that have the potential to avoid vaccine immunity”, said infectious disease specialist Jesse Goodman, MD, MPH, as then-chief scientist at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Current COVID-19 vaccines are based on the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, which the virus uses to bind to and infect host cells, of the original Wuhan-hu-1. But the emerging “variants of concern” deemed so because they appear to be more transmissible contain mutations in the spike protein, spurring vaccine efficacy concerns. Much of the current data on the messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines’ efficacy against SARS-CoV-2 variants have come from laboratory studies using serum samples from immunized individuals.

Modifying COVID-19 vaccines would probably be the most straightforward step in dealing with SARS-CoV-2 variants. “For vaccines and biologics, it’s the manufacturing process that defines the product, and the manufacturing process isn’t changing. The challenge for COVID is what variant do you pick” said Norman Baylor, Ph.D., a former director of the FDA’s Office of Vaccines Research and Review. We are definitely making progress on this virus thanks to the research being done. We will continue to take two steps forward and one step back, but we have this, we can get it done! Stay well, roll up your sleeve and stay tuned!