- New Covid vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax will likely provide protection against the new “Eris” variant, which is now the dominant strain of the virus in the US
- Drugmakers are designing updated coronavirus shots to target the XBB.1.5 omicron subvariant, which is slowly declining nationwide.
- All three companies are still waiting for the Food and Drug Administration to approve their vaccines, meaning they won’t be available to the general public for about a month.
A pharmacist prepares to administer a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot during an event hosted by the Chicago Department of Public Health at the Southwest Senior Center in Chicago, Illinois, September 9, 2022.
Scott Olson | Getty’s image
New Covid vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax will likely provide protection against the new “Eris” variant, which is now the dominant strain of the virus in the US
Drugmakers designed their latest vaccine to target the XBB.1.5 omicron subvariant, which is slowly declining nationwide. But medical experts and preliminary data suggest that the new shot will still be effective against Eris, or EG.5, and other widely circulated variants – all of which are derivatives of omicron.
“I think this vaccine will provide enormous protection against EG.5. It may only lose a little bit, but it’s nothing I’m really worried about,” said Dr. Mark Mulligan, director of NYU’s Langone Vaccine Center. CNBC. “Looks like we’ll be fine.”
All three companies are still waiting for the Food and Drug Administration to approve their vaccines, meaning they won’t be available to the general public for about a month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must also decide which Americans should get the shots and how often.
However, the impending arrival of the vaccine offers reassurance to Americans as Eris and other Covid variants trigger a slight increase in cases and hospitalizations across the country but remain below the summer peak that strained hospitals this time last year.
Eris accounted for 17.3% of all US cases at the start of this month, according to the latest data from the CDC. The new strain surpasses XBB.1.5, which accounts for about 10% of all cases.
The World Health Organization earlier this month designated Eris a “variant of interest”, meaning Eris will be monitored for mutations that could potentially make it more severe.
But health agencies and experts say Eris does not appear to pose a significant threat – or at least no more than other omicron variants currently circulating in the US. Eris is also not expected to cause a large influx of Covid cases like other strains. in previous years.
The new vaccine will most likely provide some protection against Eris because the strain has a very similar genetic make-up to XBB.1.5.
The main difference is that Eris carries an additional amino acid mutation, which may make the strain only slightly better able to evade immunity from previous infections or vaccinations.
“It’s not like it used to be when alpha, beta, delta and omicron variants came out and they were so different from each other,” said Dr. Nicole Iovine, chief hospital epidemiologist and infectious disease physician at the University of Florida. “These are all omicron variants, so they are much more similar to each other. I think this vaccine will actually be quite effective because of that.”
A nurse gives a booster shot at a Covid-19 vaccination clinic on April 0=6, 2022 in San Rafael, California.
Justin Sullivan | Getty’s image
That’s backed up by new data from all three companies.
Moderna on Thursday said its updated shot led to a “significant boost” in protective antibodies against Eris and another fast-spreading strain of the virus called “Fornax,” or FL 1.5.1, in clinical trials. The company did not provide specific data on antibody levels because the trial results are still preliminary.
But Moderna President Stephen Hoge said in a release that the results “reflect the ability of our updated vaccine to address the emerging threat of Covid-19.”
A Pfizer spokesperson, in a statement to CNBC on Thursday, said the company’s own shots “effectively neutralized” a number of omicron variants, including Eris and XBB.1.5, in a recent study in mice. The company plans to release the full study results in a research publication, the spokesperson said.
A Novavax spokesperson also told CNBC that they expect the updated Covid vaccine to work against Eris due to its similarity to the XBB.1.5 strain.
“We are now conducting testing to demonstrate that,” the spokesperson added.
As Eris gains a stronger foothold in the US, some Americans may question whether they should get one of the currently available Covid boosters instead of waiting for the new shot to arrive.
Some experts say it depends on individual circumstances and level of risk, so patients should talk to their doctors.
Mulligan said unvaccinated or immunocompromised people who haven’t had a booster available could potentially consider taking it now. These patients are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from Covid.
But he added that most people, especially healthy patients, could probably afford to wait for the new vaccine.
Eris is not expected to infect a large number of Americans before the shot is out. “Some of us may be impacted, but I don’t expect us to see a huge surge in the short time between now and the next month or two,” Mulligan said.
The currently available boosters also may not provide much protection against the Eris because the variant has “deviated too far” from the omicron BA.5, according to Dr. Dean Blumberg, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Health. The booster targets BA.5, BA.4 and the original Covid strain.
“It probably won’t be that profitable and we expect an updated vaccine to be available in a month or so,” Blumberg said. “So I’ll be waiting on that one and getting it as soon as it’s available.”
#Covid #vaccines #Pfizer #Moderna #Novavax #protect #Eris #variant