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COVID-19 super vaccine: Scientists eye 'variant-proof' formula amid Omicron threat 

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As Omicron advances, vaccine makers like Moderna and Pfizer- BioNTech are racing to come up with effective boosters. A ‘variant-proof beta vaccine' too may be a reality in the near future. But some experts still feel the key to beating COVID-19 remains old-fashioned vaccine equity.

COVID-19 super vaccine: Scientists eye 'variant-proof' formula amid Omicron threat 
Scientists are working on a new generation of COVID-19 vaccines that will be effective against all future and possible variants of the virus. Amid the future threat of new variants possibly emerging through further mutations, vaccine developers are now trying to pin down how to make a vaccine that is effective against all variants.
The emergence of the Omicron variant, with its 50 plus mutations, has raised concerns over the effectiveness of the current generation of vaccines against the new variants and future mutations. While no solid scientific data exists for the effectiveness of current COVID-19 vaccines in use against the Omicron variant, nations have already started imposing travel restrictions in order to avoid a potentially new threatening outbreak.
While it will take two to three weeks for immunologists to understand whether, and how, the Omicron variant can escape the immune response generated by prior infections and/or vaccination, vaccine makers are already working to make changes to their vaccine templates to be more effective against the new variant.
“Moderna will rapidly advance an Omicron-specific booster candidate. This candidate is part of the company’s strategy to advance variant-specific candidates for a subset of variants of significant concern,” the company said in a statement on November 26.
Pfizer and BioNTech have stated that they are working on similar boosters. But the threat of future variants still remains.
Globally, only 42.63 percent of the world’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while a further 11.39 percent are partially vaccinated. With the lion’s share of vaccines being administered in rich nations, there are nearly 3.5 billion individuals that still remain vulnerable to infections from COVID-19.
More infections further increase the chance of complex mutations, creating newer variants; so, unless most of the world population is vaccinated against the virus, the threats of future variants remain ever-present.
It is for this reason that scientists have begun working on ‘beta vaccines,’ which will provide protection against all future variants. Beta vaccines are named after beta coronaviruses, which is the group of viruses that include viral species that cause diseases like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and COVID-19.
Norway-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) recently announced that it would be funding MigVax and the Vaccines and Infectious Disease Organizations of the University of Saskatchewan to work on the concept of ‘variant-proof’ vaccines. These vaccines will tackle ‘beta coronaviruses’ to offer protection against new variants of concern.
Different vaccine platforms, biomarkers and immunological techniques are being tested to see whether they can form the backbone for the ‘variant-proof’ vaccines.
But some experts say chasing after immunity against every possible variant can quickly become extremely costly and time-consuming. According to many health experts, the key to preventing future variants is vaccine equity, which means increasing the global vaccination rates for poor and middle-income countries.
 
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