The World Health Organisation is working to devise a central system to update Covid vaccines, much like the current process used for flu jabs, the media reported.
The strategy emulates a system currently used to decide on “strain updates” for flu shots, which are updated every six months, The Telegraph reported.
It is being worked together with experts from the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and other agencies including the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The plans for a global system are based on mounting concerns that a fragmented approach to future-proofing Covid shots would be counterproductive, reduce manufacturing capacity, exacerbate vaccine hesitancy, and worsen already vast imbalances in access to jabs worldwide, the report said.
Although scientists say it is not yet necessary to tweak existing jabs, yet they warn of the emergence of a vaccine-evading variant. Thus, developing a global mechanism to make decisions about how and when to introduce these next generation jabs will be “critical”.
In line with this, the WHO has already formed the Technical Advisory Group on Covid-19 Vaccine Composition (Tag-Co-Vac) for this purpose.
“Tag-Co-Vac was set up basically to advise WHO, and for WHO to advise the world, on when there will be a need for a change in vaccine composition — and if so, what would be the strain that should be used,” Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the WHO, told The Telegraph.
According to Swaminathan, there are three main approaches for next generation vaccines: a ‘monovalent’ vaccine which targets a single variant, a ‘multivalent’ vaccine which could protect against several strains at once, or a pan-coronavirus vaccine.
While a pan-coronavirus vaccine will be the most complicated to develop, it would be the “ideal”, the report said.
“Not only would it protect people from current existing circulating variants, but from future variants — and it would be broadly protective across beta coronaviruses (the family of pathogens that includes Covid, MERS and SARS-1),” said Swaminathan.