How would the process of updating a vaccine work if needed? FDA says it would be ‘streamlined’

A top Food and Drug Administration (FDA) official said Friday that the agency will try to have a “streamlined” process for authorizing any updates that are required for COVID-19 vaccines to adapt to the threat of new variants.

“We would intend to try to be pretty nimble with this,” said Peter Marks, the head of the FDA center that reviews vaccines, during a webinar hosted by the American Medical Association.

Marks said the agency would work to “get these variants covered as quickly as possible.”

Experts have not yet said that updated vaccines are necessary, but they are monitoring the situation closely, particularly a variant first identified in South Africa that has been shown to diminish the effect of vaccines to varying extents.

Moderna, for example, said that while its studies have shown a reduced antibody response to the South African variant, its vaccines still appears to be protective, but “out of an abundance of caution” it is testing an updated vaccine specifically targeted against the new variant.