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As variants emerge, researchers discuss future of COVID vaccine

vaccine future
Posted at 2:20 PM, Dec 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-16 14:20:22-05

As various strains of COVID-19 continue to evolve, researchers at the forefront of coronavirus research are looking toward the next generation of vaccines, including the possibility of combing the flu and COVID vaccines into one shot.

Jason McLellan is a professor of molecular biosciences at The University of Texas at Austin. He’s been at the forefront of helping to advise the National Institute of Health about the best ways to fight COVID-19.

A fight that once again is changing.

"We knew the virus would evolve; humans are adapting. Our immune response would adapt to the virus," he explained.

McLellan and his team are hard at work studying COVID-19 and the omicron variant, looking at new data that is continually coming in related to the omicron and what that could mean for the future of the COVID vaccine.

"Science takes time. Research takes time. The vaccines were made quickly it’s really because there were decades of research we'd already done," he added.

While this new variant is concerning, McLellan and other health officials are trying to reassure the public that we aren’t starting from scratch when it comes to modifying the current vaccines.

Initial findings show booster shots could be key in fighting omicron. Four months after people received a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, the shots were only about 35% effective in preventing infections caused by omicron. But a third dose of the vaccine boosted that effectiveness number to around 75%.

"Even if the variants decrease the effects of some of them, it’s not complete escape and our immune system learns from each new infection as well," McLellan said.

McLellan and his team are also looking at the next generation of coronavirus vaccines that could protect more broadly. He believes it’s more than likely the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine will eventually be available in one combined shot.