Since the unprecedented COVID-19 global pandemic that started in January 2020, humans have been in a constant battle with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
A series of vaccine versions have been developed and administered globally, beginning in January 2021 when an mRNA vaccine based on the original Wuhan strain was implemented. Subsequently, a bivalent mRNA vaccine was developed based on the Omicron offspring. Currently, the most updated version is based on XBB.1.5 and is ready to be injected into people's arms.
Bivalent vaccines contain two different components. One component is to protect us against the original viral strain, while the other targets the most recent variants.
The vaccine is based on the gene code of a known virus, whereas the lead time for vaccine development normally takes an average of 10 years. Even with the current "green-light" policies for COVID-19 vaccines, it takes almost one year for the first generation to launch and a couple of months for the second and third generations.
However, due to the basic survival skills of SARS-CoV-2, the virus is always mutating in order to escape from a vaccine. Even before a vaccine is ready to launch, there are always a few mutants that have already found a way to escape from the antibodies induced by the sluggish vaccine, creating the next wave.
Regardless, the unprecedented speed of vaccine development won't be able to compete with the speed of viral mutation, as the virus is always taking the lead and will be one step ahead of the vaccine.
SARS-CoV-2 VariantsFrom 2020 to early 2021, a number of major SARS-CoV-2 variants have appeared: Alpha (B.1.1.7), Beta (B.1.351), Gamma(P.1), and Delta (B.1.617.2).
- BA.1 and BA.2: first detected in February 2022.
- BA.4 and BA.5: first detected in May 2022.
- XBB.1.5 (Kraken): an offspring of two BA.2 sublineages first detected in October 2022.
- BA.2.86 (Pirola): first detected in 2023 and is currently being monitored.
- EG.5 (Eris): first detected in Feb 2023, peaked in October, and is now declining.
- HV.1: first detected in July 2023, has taken the lead in the United States at the end of October 2023.
First Generation Vaccine: Delta Emerged, Creating Global HavocIn January 2021, the original mRNA monovalent vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna and based on the old Wuhan strain were launched at a rocket-like speed.
These double mutations in the spike protein cause the vaccine-induced antibodies to significantly lose their ability to bind to delta, resulting in immunological evasion and causing major global havoc.
Vaccine Versus Virus: The First Battle RoundVaccine: Monovalent.
Second Generation Vaccine: XBB.1.5 WonPeople continued to witness the declining effects of the original vaccine against delta, even after boosters were widely administered. The government continually stressed that the original vaccines had sufficient efficacy, one time after another.
In mid-2022, BA.4 and BA.5 lineages of Omicron were the dominant COVID-19 variants in the United States and were predicted to circulate in the second half of 2022.
Thus, Pfizer and Moderna quickly took the initiative to develop bivalent boosters based on the original strain from Wuhan and Omicron BA.4 and BA.5. They made it within another miraculously short time frame of just a few months.
However, Omicron keeps quickly changing, splitting into even more diversified subgroups. Soon after the new bivalent vaccine was distributed, BA.4 and BA.5 became history.
Vaccine Versus Virus: The Second Battle RoundVaccine: Bivalent mRNA.
Third Generation Vaccine: Doomed to FailAs of September 2023, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines have been reformulated—for the third time—this time based on XBB.1.5, which is the great-grandchild of Omicron. This latest booster recommendation applies to all individuals, regardless of previous COVID-19 vaccination history.
Vaccine Versus Virus: The Third Battle RoundVaccine: XBB.1.5 mRNA.
Omicron continues to change from XBB to JN, HK.3, EG.5, and HV.1—all belonging to the huge and diversified Omicron family.
Despite the extraordinary speed of vaccine development against COVID-19 and the continued mass vaccination program, the never-ending emergence of new SARS-CoV-2 variants threatens to significantly overturn the vaccine's intended effects.
This is a tiring battle between vaccines and the virus. The winners and losers are clear. The microscopic tricks utilized by the SARS-CoV-2 virus variants are far superior to the vaccines' unproven technology.
The common view is that the pressure exerted on viruses from repeated vaccination programs serves as a primary driver of the diversified variants of SARS-CoV-2.
If humans continue to develop vaccines based on these emerging new variants, there will continue to be repeated failures. How many more failures will it take to realize that all of these vaccine efforts have been in vain?
It is a time for rational deliberation to pause to reflect on finding the root cause of the viral infection.
We already have a dynamic shield of protection against serious viral attacks—our natural immunity. Only by facing our own innate immunity will the virus find its tricks useless.