Third booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine to fight new variants in the works

NOW: Third booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine to fight new variants in the works

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Booster COVID-19 vaccines are now being developed to fight new variants, according to leading vaccine experts during a virtual public panel Wednesday by UW School of Medicine and Morgridge Institute for Research. Many know the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two doses, but now a third booster shot may soon come out by both manufacturers, specifically designed to attack new variants.

“They’re ready to have this go through clinical trials,” said Dr. William Hartman, principal investigator of the UW AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial.

Dr. William Hartman says Moderna announced their booster shot is now ready for human trials on Wednesday afternoon. Panelists say boosters may be something people get periodically. They’re modified to go after new, dangerous variants including the one from South Africa.

Pfizer is also developing one.  

“This is something that is needed, we’ve seen decreased immunity to some of these variants after people have been vaccinated,” Dr. Hartman adds.

“Pfizer and Moderna are going to be able to then keep modifying to continue to keep up with all these different mutations as they happen,” said Dr. James Conway, medical director of the UW Health Immunization Program.

The panel also shared what they’ve learned to better fight the pandemic. Dr. Hartman says now they know covid attacks the body in phases.

Doctors are able to use a number of treatments like convalescent plasma, antivirals and antibodies during earlier stages of the disease to save lives.

“We’re seeing people who otherwise would’ve been very, very sick being able to be discharged from the hospital,” Dr. Hartman says.

“That’s just really fascinating and shows you what’s possible when everybody comes together and starts tackling a problem,” said Johan den Boon, PhD, virologist at Morgridge Institute for Research.

Doctors say while people could be optimistic this year, it’s important they continue their efforts to curb spread.

“As soon as we get enough supply and get people immunized, I think we could get to a point where even by summer when we’re more outdoors, that life starts to feel a lot more normal,” says Dr. Conway.

Dr. Hartman says he expects vaccine supply to increase exponentially in the coming weeks, as Johnson & Johnson awaits authorization and AstraZeneca is expected to have efficacy data by the end of the month.

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