Credit: politico.com

Last Updated on July 4, 2022 by BVN

Breanna Reeves |

On June 28, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s independent Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee voted 19-2 to recommend the inclusion of a COVID-19 booster shot that will target Omicron-specific variants. 

The committee was tasked to vote on the question: “Does the committee recommend inclusion of a SARS-CoV-2 Omicron component for COVID-19 booster vaccines in the United States?”

“I vote in favor of [an] Omicron booster because I think it’s important to broaden immunity,” said Dr. Wayne Marasco, a professor in the Department of Cancer Immunology and Virology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

During the meeting, the committee discussed the considerations that involve updating the strain composition for COVID-19 vaccines including if a change to the current vaccine is necessary at this time, and debated which formulation would work best. 

“I vote in favor of [an] Omicron booster because I think it’s important to broaden immunity,” said Dr. Wayne Marasco, a professor in the Department of Cancer Immunology and Virology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. (source: blog.dana-farber.org)

While the committee made no decisions regarding the formulation of the updated booster shot, some committee members made their preferences known for a bivalent vaccine which would be effective against the initial Omicron variant and the original coronavirus strain. 

Dr. Marasco explained that at this point in time he is unsure about what the data will show over the next few months and if there will be ample evidence to decide whether the booster should include components of Omicron variants BA.4 or BA.5 or just the initial Omicron variant.

He added, “I think this is a step in the right direction, but we have to reevaluate this as we move forward.”

According to the latest U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest variant tracker, Omicron BA.2.12.1 and Omicron BA.5 together account for more than 70% of the cases in the country.

Following the vote, Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, explained that right now it is critical for manufacturers to know what to put in their updated vaccine boosters, but did not make the case for what the composition of the updated booster would entail.

The latest U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest variant tracker, Omicron BA.2.12.1 and Omicron BA.5 together account for more than 70% of the cases in the country. (covid.cdc.gov)

Dr. Marks emphasized that half of Americans have not yet received the first booster, following the initial COVID-19 vaccine primary series. He stated that it will be hard to know what variants will be circulating this fall. According to the latest CDC data, approximately 47% of Americans have received a first booster dose.

While Dr. Amanda Cohn, Director of the Division of Birth Defects and Infant Disorders at the CDC, voted in favor of the recommendation to update the booster, she shared her support for the composition of the initial vaccine.

“I don’t think we should lose the prototype. I think it’s a known entity and it’s doing really well in its current job,” Dr. Cohn said.

As the meeting concluded, Dr. Arnold Monto, the acting chair of the independent vaccine advisers committee, explained that looking to the past is not helpful to the future in regard to this virus.

“We have done the best we can in a difficult situation with imperfect data,” Dr. Monto said.

Breanna Reeves

Breanna Reeves is a reporter in Riverside, California, and uses data-driven reporting to cover issues that affect the lives of Black Californians. Breanna joins Black Voice News as a Report for America Corps member. Previously, Breanna reported on activism and social inequality in San Francisco and Los Angeles, her hometown. Breanna graduated from San Francisco State University with a bachelor’s degree in Print & Online Journalism. She received her master’s degree in Politics and Communication from the London School of Economics. Contact Breanna with tips, comments or concerns at breanna@voicemediaventures.com or via twitter @_breereeves.