Omicron-adapted vaccines may generate more immunity vs COVID-19: expert

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 15 2022 06:31 PM

A health worker prepares Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine inside a mall in Makati City a day after the Department of Health issued guidelines for its nationwide rollout on July 28, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File
A health worker prepares Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine inside a mall in Makati City a day after the Department of Health issued guidelines for its nationwide rollout on July 28, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — Modified COVID-19 vaccines that target the omicron variant may generate more immunity against the disease, a health expert said Monday.

Dr. Nina Gloriani, chairperson of Vaccine Expert Panel, said these tweaked jabs would be helpful in the country's fight against COVID-19.

The BA.4 and BA.5 of omicron strains are among the dominant variants in the country and parts of the world, she added.

"Kung ibibigay natin itong bagong vaccine in a bivalent form ay mas makakatulong ito na mag-generate ng immunity against the specific variant. 'Yun po ang basehan nila kaya gusto nilang magbigay ng variant-specific vaccine," Gloriani said in a public press briefing.

The Department of Health said last week it planned to procure new generation of COVID-19 vaccines. Both Pfizer and Moderna have developed the jab targeting the fast-spreading subvariants.

Gloriani said it may take time before the country may get access to the vaccines.

"Sa Amerika, ang sinasabi nila sa press releases nila by October. Pero of course sometimes, it takes a little longer," she said.

"Kung iisipin natin sa Pilipinas, they will have to apply for EUA (emergency use authorization) again for this vaccine. So, it may take another few months bago magiging available sa atin, but it is good to plan ahead."

Last week, the Philippines detected 225 more cases of highly transmissible omicron subvariants BA.5, BA.4, and BA.2.12.1.

While vaccines have helped lower hospitalizations and deaths from COVID, which first emerged in China in late 2019, the current jabs are mainly aimed at the earlier strains of the disease. 

The World Health Organization warned in July that the pandemic was "nowhere near over" due to the spread of omicron subvariants and to the lifting of control measures.

COVID-19 cases rose around the world in late spring and early summer, driven by the new variants.

The BA.4 and BA.5 variants were first discovered in South Africa and spread rapidly despite high population immunity conferred by prior waves and vaccinations.

Like other omicron variants, they tend to have a milder disease course as they settle less in the lungs and more in the upper nasal passages, causing symptoms like fever, tiredness and loss of smell. 

— With a report from Agence France-Presse