For vulnerable populations: annual vaccine boosters possible, experts say

For vulnerable populations: annual booster shots of possible vaccines, experts say

UPGRADE DAY

Experts believe it is quite possible that annual booster shots of COVID-19 vaccines will be necessary to protect vulnerable populations from the virus, as is done for the general population with the vaccine against influenza.

For vulnerable populations: annual booster shots of possible vaccines, experts say

Dr Guy Boivin, infectious microbiologist

This is what Dr Guy Boivin, full professor in the department of microbiology-immunology and infectiology of the Faculty of Medicine at Laval University is considering. 

In his opinion, the strain could become endemic and return annually with the cold, like other respiratory viruses.

“You're probably going to have to vaccinate – not everyone – but probably the patients most at risk. A bit like the flu, he observes. Not necessarily next year, but eventually.”

Epidemiologist and biochemist Karl L'Espérance is a little more cautious about this possible upcoming annual booster, but he also believes that it will is a possibility.

“It could happen, but it will depend on what happens with the virus in the future,” he argues.

Before establishing an annual booster, the two experts agree that several elements in the evolution of the virus will have to be observed, in particular its pathogenicity and immunity in general. 

Panvaccine to the rescue

This avenue could be avoided by designing a universal vaccine, i.e. a vaccine that would protect against several coronaviruses and their pesky variants . 

While current vaccines against COVID-19 are widely criticized for their effectiveness, the two experts explain that these vaccines were designed to respond to the urgency of the health crisis. 

“When you go to the most urgent, you take the protein that is most exposed on the surface of the virus. It is the most immunogenic, that is to say that the immune system recognizes it first,” explains Dr. Boivin.  

According to Mr. L'Espérance, the universal vaccine, or panvaccine, will require a lot of work to design.

“It's really not an easy job”, he drops. 

Dr Boivin explains that it is necessary to reach other more conserved proteins of the virus. 

“These are proteins that mutate less. But they are more difficult to target, because they are inside the virus and they are not exposed to the immune system”, he specifies. 

This work is already underway in some laboratories, and the results are promising, according to the two experts.  

“I can’t wait to see the vaccine from Medicago. It's completely different. It targets something other than the S protein and could therefore immunize against several variants,” adds Dr. Boivin. 

In the midst of the fifth wave, where the morale of many people is being severely tested , the epidemiologist ends with a glimmer of hope. 

“There are super positive indicators. We talk a lot about endemics, but the scenarios are promising for the next few months, especially with the arrival of antivirals”, underlines Mr. L'Espérance. 

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