Title: Vaccine Manufacturers Set to Tackle Omicron Variant with New Shots, but Uptake Remains a Challenge
Subtitle: Experts warn against potential hurdles in convincing the public to get vaccinated despite the arrival of single-strain Covid shots targeting the omicron subvariant XBB.1.5
In a bid to combat the highly transmissible omicron variant, vaccine manufacturers Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax are gearing up to deliver new single-strain Covid shots specifically designed to target the omicron subvariant XBB.1.5. These shots are expected to be rolled out as early as September, providing hope in the ongoing battle against the pandemic. However, experts are predicting that convincing the public to embrace these booster shots may prove to be an uphill battle due to an initially sluggish uptake of previous doses.
Since the approval of the bivalent Covid vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna in September, only 17% of the US population has received their shots. Factors such as pandemic fatigue and a mistaken belief that Covid is “over” have hindered widespread vaccination efforts. Moreover, confusion surrounding individual risk levels and the benefits of additional shots have also deterred individuals from getting vaccinated.
While vaccine manufacturers have not provided exact estimates for the uptake of the new single-strain shots, a spokesperson from Pfizer expects that about 24% of the population will receive vaccine doses in 2023. This projection highlights the magnitude of the challenge in convincing the remaining population to embrace the ongoing vaccination campaign.
Furthermore, the recent shift towards a commercial market for vaccine distribution may not significantly impact vaccine uptake. Experts argue that conveying a clear message that Covid shots will become a routine part of protecting one’s health could help increase acceptance among the general population. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) aim to transition towards a flu shot-like model for Covid vaccines. This would involve individuals receiving a single jab every year, updated to target the latest variant, similar to the annual flu shot. Surveys and experts suggest that implementing an annual schedule for Covid vaccines could simplify the process and lead to a boost in uptake.
In line with this approach, Pfizer is developing “next-generation” versions of its vaccine to extend protection for a full year. These advancements would allow individuals to receive an annual Covid shot, potentially making it easier for the public to incorporate into their regular health routines.
As the battle against the omicron variant intensifies, vaccine manufacturers are gearing up to deliver new and improved shots. However, the challenge lies in encouraging widespread uptake. Overcoming vaccine hesitancy, addressing pandemic fatigue, and effectively communicating the significance of booster shots will be critical in ensuring the success of ongoing vaccination efforts.
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