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Might COVID-19 booster shot formulations change as the SARS-CoV-2 virus evolves?

This article was published on
August 18, 2021

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SciLine reaches out to our network of scientific experts and poses commonly asked questions about newsworthy topics. Reporters can use the video clips, audio, and comments below in news stories, with attribution to the scientist who made them.

SciLine reaches out to our network of scientific experts and poses commonly asked questions about newsworthy topics. Reporters can use the video clips, audio, and comments below in news stories, with attribution to the scientist who made them.

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What our experts say

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Expert Comments: 

Jesse L. Goodman, M.D., M.P.H.

The COVID virus has proved to be pretty tricky, and it sort of changes its coat constantly. And as we’re seeing now with delta sometimes these new variants may to some degree resist our vaccines. So I do think going forward we’re probably going to need to continually adapt our vaccines to changes in the virus, perhaps very much like we’re doing with influenza.

Dorry Segev, M.D. Ph.D.

Right now in terms of boosters what we have are the same vaccine over again. So if our immune system has decreased to the vaccine we got, we can give more vaccine and our immune response increases. Ultimately I think what will happen is the variants will change to the point where we need new formulations of the vaccine. And I expect that that will happen every one to two years where the booster will actually be a new vaccine formulation.

Ali Ellebedy, Ph.D.

Yes, this is a likely possibility. It will depend on how infectious new variants are and if the current vaccine can still prime our immune system to recognize them.

Beth Kirkpatrick, M.D.

Yes, this is certainly possible. Vaccine companies test whether antibodies made in the body following the original vaccine formulation will still work to neutralize new viral variants. If they do, the formulations will not change. If not, then we can expect vaccine formulations to be modified to optimize effectiveness.

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