BA.5 spurs calls to fund next-gen COVID vaccines
The rise of the BA.5 variant is spurring new calls for funding for an Operation Warp Speed 2.0 to accelerate development of next-generation COVID-19 vaccines that can better target new variants.
The BA.5 subvariant of omicron that now makes up the majority of U.S. COVID-19 cases is sparking concern because it has a greater ability to evade the protection of current vaccines than past strains of the virus did.
Pfizer and Moderna are working on updated vaccines that target BA.5 that could be ready this fall, but experts say that by the time they are ready, a new variant very well could have taken hold.
The promising alternatives:
- “Pan-coronavirus” vaccines that are “variant-proof,” targeting multiple variants
- Nasal vaccines that could drastically cut down on transmission of the virus
The obstacle: There is ongoing research on these next-gen vaccines, but unlike in 2020, when the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed helped speed the development of the original vaccine, there is less funding and assistance this time.
COVID-19 funding that could help develop and manufacture new vaccines more quickly has been stalled in Congress for months.
“There’s no Operation Warp Speed,” said Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research. “So it’s moving very slowly. But at least it’s moving.”