Vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 virus are the best tools for providing protection against serious disease, hospitalization, and death resulting from COVID-19 infection. COVID-19 vaccines now are approved for use in patients 6 months and older. However, in the pediatric population, vaccine uptake continues to bevery slow, especially in children 6 months to 4 years of age, of whom only 7% have received 1 dose of the vaccine.1 In children 5 to 11 years of age, only 30% have completed the 2-dose vaccination series.1
As parents continue to debate whether to get their children vaccinated, COVID-19 continues to surge in various communities around the country, with the Omicron subvariant BA.5 now accounting for almost 90% of cases in the United States.1 BA.5 is the most highly transmissible of all the COVID-19 variants and is able to evade immunity from prior infection and vaccination. Having high COVID-19 antibody titers provides increased protection against serious infection, hospitalization, and death due to BA.5. This emphasizes the importance of being vaccinated, including getting a booster dose of vaccine if eligible.
There are several new COVID-19 vaccines in development to address the emergence of Omicron and its subvariants:
- Pfizer and Moderna have developed bivalent Omicron BA.4/BA.5–adapted vaccines that contain a combination of their current COVID-19 vaccine and a vaccine candidate that targets the spike protein of the Omicron BA.4/BA.5 variants that will be used as booster doses. Preclinical data showed that a booster dose of the bivalent Omicron BA.4/BA.5–adapted bivalent vaccines generated a strong neutralizing antibody response against Omicron BA.1, BA.2, and BA.4/BA.5 variants, as well as the original wild-type strain. These bivalent COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be available sometime in fall 2022 as a booster dose for individuals 12 years and older.
- Universal coronavirus vaccines are in development that would be protective against all current and future variants of COVID-19, as well as other coronaviruses such as SARS and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus. Several different vaccine technology platforms are being explored for the production of these vaccines, including harmless adenovirus vectors, mRNA, self-amplifying RNA, and ferritin nanoparticles. One of these experimental vaccines, based on ferritin nanoparticle technology, has been tested in mice and primate models and shown to produce a good immune response to a range of different coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2. Phase 1 human clinical trials are being conducted with this experimental vaccine.2
COVID-19 and its variants are here to stay. The development of vaccines that are effective in preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and death is the best method of protection for people of all ages.
1. Children and COVID-19 vaccination trends. American Academy of Pediatrics. Updated August 31, 2022. Accessed September 5, 2022. http://www.aap.org/en/pages/2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-infections/children-and-covid-19-vaccination-trends/
2. Cohen AA, van Doremalen N, Greaney AJ, et al. Mosaic RBD nanoparticles protect against challenge by diverse sarbecoviruses in animal models. Science. 2022;377(6606):eabq0839. doi:10.1126/science.abq0839