A new COVID-19 booster may protect against multiple variants

• A multivariant vaccine is currently being tested in humans.
• It replicates itself once injected into muscle — unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
• A decision on booster shots in certain Americans is expected this week.

With the Food and Drug Administration poised to make a decision on the long-awaited COVID-19 booster shots this week, a new vaccine — that could protect against multiple variants at the same time — is being tested in humans.

The multivariant vaccine, called GRT-R910, is a self-amplifying mRNA second-generation SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. That means it’s different from the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna because it replicates itself once injected into muscle; Pfizer and Moderna use mRNA, which teaches the body to create a protein that attacks an immune response.

Gritstone, a U.S. pharmaceutical company, has teamed up with the University of Manchester and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust for the trial, which is currently underway and involves participants aged 60 and older.

The creators of the vaccine say its vaccine may offer the opportunity of lowering vaccine doses or even eliminating the need for repeat administrations.

“We think GRT-R910 as a booster vaccination will elicit strong, durable, and broad immune responses, which are likely to be critical in maintaining protection of this vulnerable elderly population who are particularly at risk of hospitalization and death,” said professor Andrew Ustianowski, honorary clinical chair at the University of Manchester.

Business Insider reported that self-amplifying mRNA could be developed on hospital sites where outbreaks are occurring. It would be different from how vaccines are currently produced, which occurs in factories.

Results are expected by early 2022, according to Gritstone.

FDA expected to authorize Pfizer boosters for certain Americans

Until then, the debate over booster shots continues here in the U.S. The FDA is expected to authorize Pfizer booster shots this week for Americans at high risk of falling ill.

Its awaited decision comes after a panel of experts gave the Pfizer dose a thumbs up for people ages 65 and older, and people over the age of 16 with underlying conditions, or who work in public settings where the chances of getting infected are heightened.

The FDA advisory committee voted against allowing third shots of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to all Americans, which was a blow to President Biden’s plan; he said boosters would be available to all Americans beginning the week of September 20.

The New York Times reported that officials are still waiting on data on whether people who received the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines will need booster shots.

Johnson & Johnson’s booster shot increases protection

Johnson & Johnson said Tuesday its COVID-19 booster shot is 94% effective when administered two months after the first dose. The data also revealed that the double dose of the vaccine gave participants 100% protection against severe COVID-19 at least two weeks after the second jab, according to the company.

“We now have generated evidence that a booster shot further increases protection against Covid-19 and is expected to extend the duration of protection significantly,” said Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer at Johnson & Johnson.

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