Home LifeHealth FDA Advisors Recommend Boosters Targeting Omicron As Sub-variants Spreading

FDA Advisors Recommend Boosters Targeting Omicron As Sub-variants Spreading

by Helen J. Wolf
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 made up most US COVID cases last week. At the same time, a panel of experts from the Food and Drug Administration recommended adapting fall booster shots to target omicron variants.

The omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1 accounted for 42% of cases in the week ending June 25. But the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants together accounted for 52.3% of COVID infections, the CDC said.

FDA Advisors Recommend Boosters Targeting Omicron As Sub-variants Spreading

The FDA’s Advisory Committee on Vaccines and Related Biologics met Tuesday to discuss modified versions of COVID vaccines.

Dr. Peter Marks, the director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at the FDA, told the committee that the U.S. is expected to face a challenge this fall, with half of Americans being vaccinated with just two doses of vaccine the immunity of the U.S. population decreases.

“That combination of waning immunity coupled with the potential emergence of new variants at a time when we’re moving in as a population this winter increases our risk of a major COVID-19 outbreak,” Marks said.

“That’s why we need to seriously think about a booster campaign this fall to help protect us,” Marks continues.

Marks said vaccines that match the evolving virus offer the best protection against deaths and hospitalizations.

“The better the match of the vaccine to the circulating strain that we believe may correspond to improved vaccine efficacy and possibly better durability of protection,” said Marks.

Members voted 19-2 to recommend COVID boosters targeting omicron.

Although the vote is not binding, the FDA usually accepts recommendations from its advisers.

“This is not to say that we’re saying boosters will be recommended for everyone in the fall, but I’m confident this gives us the right vaccine to prepare for a potential need for boosters in the fall,” said Dr. Amanda Cohn after the vote.

Dr. Ofer Levy, another panel member, noted that fall is only a few months away.

“We face a time-sensitive decision. If we have something better in the fall, the decision has to be made very quickly, so I think it was more likely that the benefit outweighed the risk of including an omicron component,” Levy said.

While committee members agreed that an updated booster is needed, they did not specify which omicron component it would target. The FDA prefers a champion that would combine the original vaccine and also fight BA.4 and BA.5, according to The New York Times.

Moderna and Pfizer have been working on boosters that combine the original shot with the omicron variant but not those sub-variants.

In early June, Moderna said preliminary results showed the updated booster provided an eightfold increase in antibodies to omicron, according to The Associated Press.

On Saturday, Pfizer and its partner BioNTech announced that their booster also elicited a strong immune response against omicron.

Earlier this month, the CDC recommended COVID vaccines for children under 5.

Researchers from Imperial College London found that nearly 20 million lives have been saved by COVID vaccines in the first year they became available.

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