Why do we need a new generation of Covid-19 vaccine?
The first Covid-19 vaccines are very effective, but there is still a lot of room for improvement, especially in dealing with new variants. Charlie Weller talked about the potential benefits of a new generation of Covid-19 vaccine.
1. What are the second and third generation vaccines?
In response to the original strain of SARS CoV-2, the first-generation vaccine was developed, tested and launched. This includes Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines. We are very lucky, they have proven to be very effective.
These vaccines can now be improved and adapted to demand in many ways-this will lead to second and third generation vaccines.
For the second generation, scientists are trying to adapt current vaccines to emerging virus variants.
Thinking further, the third-generation vaccine will be the long-term management of Covid-19. In three to five years, scientists will focus on developing vaccines to cover and prevent multiple variants of SARS CoV-2 and even multiple coronaviruses.
Charlie Weller summarized the main benefits of the second and third generation vaccines.
2. What are the benefits of a new generation of vaccines?
By improving vaccines, we may be able to increase the effectiveness of global vaccination and ensure that people all over the world, including children and those who are clinically vulnerable, are protected.
Scientists will seek to create a Covid-19 vaccine that:
l Easier to store: Vaccines can become more heat-resistant, which means they remain effective even at extreme temperatures, or do not require cold chain freezers and refrigerators. This will reduce costs in many countries.
l Easier to manufacture: Over time, the amount of active ingredients can be adjusted, ideally to the minimum required to achieve immune protection. If fewer raw materials are required, this may improve vaccine supply.
l New variants can be prevented: So far, our first-generation vaccines have proven effective against recent variants. However, research needs to continue in order to adjust the vaccine to better cope with existing mutations and effectively combat new and unknown mutations of the SARS CoV-2 virus.
l Can provide extensive, long-term protection: We don’t yet know how long the immunity of the first-generation vaccine will last. Research needs to continue to establish methods to measure our immune response so that we can find alternatives to immunity-the so-called "protection correlation."
l Can be used as a universal coronavirus vaccine: It is possible to create a vaccine to prevent all SARS CoV-2 variants and other coronaviruses.
3. What else do we need to know about Covid-19 and vaccines?
We have learned a lot about previously unknown viruses. We now know that by targeting the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, a variety of vaccines can produce a strong immune response to the original virus-this is not a given.
We have made progress in vaccine "platforms" such as mRNA and viral vectors, which means that we can better adapt the vaccines we have to future variants.
But there are still many questions that have not been answered. For example, how long will the vaccine provide protection: one year, two years or more?
By understanding this, we may be able to take the current vaccine supply one step further. If we agree that there is no need for booster doses in the near future, the doses reserved for such programs in high-income countries can be provided to other populations.
There are also important questions about the impact of vaccines on transmission. And whether the licensed vaccine is effective for adolescents, children, people with weakened immune systems, or pregnant women. This information is beginning to emerge—for example, some countries have decided to vaccinate children over 12 years old based on available data.
These are important questions to understand what we can improve with the new generation of Covid-19 vaccines.
4. What do we need to do to make the vaccine as successful as possible?
The rapid development of the first-generation Covid-19 vaccine is a milestone moment for the speed at which we create vaccines.
Thanks to decades of investment in discovery research, we were able to act so quickly. This is the reason why mRNA and viral vector technology can be developed to the stage of preparing for Covid-19.
Global public, private, and charitable cooperation and unprecedented financial investment have also played a key role.
But now international funding cannot keep up with the pace of global research demand.
ACT-Accelerator will need to invest $16.8 billion this year to bring life-saving tests, treatments and vaccines from the laboratory to the front lines of the countries that need them most.
This is not only about money, because money cannot buy vaccine doses that do not exist at this time. The global manufacturing supply available this year has already been mentioned.
So far, the vast majority of vaccinations have only been carried out in a few wealthy countries. Now, rich countries that have reached multiple agreements with vaccine manufacturers need to start sharing vaccine doses with those in the world who need them most.
This is the fastest way to end the pandemic and benefit the most vulnerable people everywhere.