Vaccine experts convened at a conference Thursday to debate how future Covid-19 booster shots should be designed to ensure that they provide protection against not only known variants but variants that have yet to emerge.
It’s become the million-dollar question as omicron and its growing family of subvariants have dealt a significant blow to the protection provided by the existing vaccines from both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
The drugmakers, as well as outside researchers and government scientists, met to discuss the topic at the World Vaccine Congress meeting in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.
All agree that the shots should be updated to ensure they can continue to provide protection against severe illness, but there isn’t yet a broad consensus on what the best approach should be moving forward.
The most popular idea floated was developing a so-called pancoronavirus vaccine — a shot that could protect against the entire spectrum of strains of the virus, both known and unknown.
The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 is part of a family of coronaviruses called betacoronaviruses. The coronaviruses that caused SARS and MERS are also in this family.
But betacoronaviruses are just one branch in the broader coronavirus family tree. There are also alphacoronaviruses, gammacoronaviruses and deltacoronaviruses.
A pancoronavirus vaccine would essentially target the trunk of the tree, providing protection against all of the branches.