While progress is being made in the vaccination process of this “damn pandemic”, as defined by the Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, and it is expected like May water that millions of doses will arrive from April, European countries continue to close agreements with the pharmaceutical companies to reserve doses for 2022.
This is what they have just done with the North American company Moderna, from which they have just bought another 150 million doses for this 2021 (in addition to the 160 already acquired), plus another 150 in anticipation of it being necessary for 2022. This types of agreements have also been registered with other companies and they will do so with the following, according to sources from the Ministry of Health, given the uncertainties that still surround this virus.
It is not yet known how long the immunization of current vaccines will last and their effectiveness against new variants
And they explain that, as of today, it is very difficult to ensure that vaccination ends in 2021. On the contrary, it is quite likely that it will be necessary to go through that puncture again next year. Former minister Salvador Illa already indicated it before leaving office: “Possibly a third dose will be necessary in 2022.”
Why? The professor at the Andalusian School of Public Health, José Martínez Olmos, explains that nothing can be ruled out because there are many uncertainties, not only about the virus, but about the vaccines themselves. “At this time it is unknown how long the immunity they provide lasts and, in addition, it cannot be guaranteed at all that the virus will mutate, as is being seen, and that the current ones will be effective for the variants.”
In fact, pharmaceutical companies are already working on second-generation vaccines. A few days ago, the companies GSK and CureVac announced that they will seek to develop by 2022 an immunogen based on messenger RNA technology against new variants of the coronavirus. The objective is to offer a broader protection against different SARS-CoV-2 mutations and to allow a rapid response to those that may arise in the future. The development program will begin immediately, with the goal that the new vaccine may be available next year, pending its regulatory approval.
The increase in mutations with the potential to reduce the effectiveness of first-generation vaccines requires an acceleration of efforts to develop drugs against these variants and stay one step ahead of the pandemic, they point out from GSK. Next-generation covid vaccines may be used to protect people who have not been previously vaccinated or serve as boosters in the event that immunity is reduced over time, they say from CureVac, whose first vaccine has not yet been authorized by the EU.