The Serum Institute of India has requested market authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine, Covovax, to be used as a booster dose for those over the age of 18 who have already received two doses of Covishield or Covaxin. However, experts are highlighting concerns that the current vaccines may become ineffective against new COVID variants, which are lurking in the background.
"Although booster doses can still help reduce the severity of the disease, it may be time for governments to consider second-generation vaccines," says Professor Kiran Kondabagil, Professor at the Department of Biosciences and Bio-engineering, IIT Bombay. He further warns that new variants can emerge, rendering existing vaccines ineffective.
Developing new vaccines is a complex task, especially given the emergence of multiple variants. One potential strategy for developing second-generation vaccines is to combine the most prevalent variants from the previous season, similar to the creation of influenza vaccines. Another approach is to create universal vaccines that target common antigens found in all coronavirus variants. Researchers are also exploring the possibility of using multiple types of mRNA in vaccines to increase their effectiveness.
However, developing new vaccines must make commercial sense for investors. Determining which type of vaccine would be most effective and profitable is essential. Professor Kondabagil stresses that collaboration between governments, researchers, and investors is necessary to develop new vaccines to combat the emergence of new variants.
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