COVID-19 vaccine immunity may be fading, doctors say; scientists work on new vaccine design

Posted at 6:51 AM, Jun 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-01 07:48:39-04

TAMPA, Fla. — “There does seem to be a lot of immune evasion that’s associated with these new variants that are coming up,” said Dr. Thomas Unnasch, Distinguished Professor for USF Health.

Researchers are seeing more vaccinated people getting COVID-19. It began with the huge omicron spike at the beginning of the year.

“We started to see a lot more cases of people getting sick who were actually vaccinated,” said Dr. Jill Roberts, Association Professor for the USF College of Public Health.

With even more contagious omicron subvariants now emerging, preliminary data show the vaccines might not be as protective as they once were. That’s a big concern because The White House predicts we’ll see another wave of cases later this year.

“They’re seeing a really big outbreak in South Africa for example right now with these new BA.4 and BA.5 variants in their population. They’re seeing pretty large numbers of infection that are occurring in previously vaccinated people,” said Unnasch.

Vaccine companies are now looking to make a new COVID-19 vaccine, with the intent to begin rollout this fall and winter.

“We can kind of predict what may be coming. We’ve been looking at which areas of this thing like to mutate. So, we’ve been thinking about those particular areas and how to target that particular vaccine,” said Roberts.

Federal regulators are expected to decide on a new COVID-19 in the next month or so.

“I’m hopeful that we’re going to be looking at some recipes that can address them all. So can you actually make a vaccine that would address multiple types of variants,” said Roberts.

On June 28, the FDA is expected to review data from vaccine companies about the versions of the next generation vaccines they’re testing.

The FDA will make a decision about which type of vaccine companies could make, based on what will offer the best protection against new variants ahead of this fall and winter.

Health officials say they’re looking for the vaccines to provide a much longer duration of protection and a higher level of protection.

In the meantime, experts believe the vaccines we have right now are still preventing most people from getting severe COVID and being hospitalized.

“They’re just becoming successively less effective at keeping everybody from getting infected,” said Unnasch.

Federal regulators plan to make a decision on a new vaccine design by early July so companies have enough time to produce large quantities.