Leading infectious disease expert and Director of the Doherty Institute, Sharon Lewin, has said a system of chasing variants and giving people repeated COVID-19 booster shots was not a viable strategy.
“We won’t be able to manufacture that amount, and you’ll never be able to keep up with the variance,” Lewin told the Australian Financial Review. “An Omicron variant vaccine may not be better than a Wuhan vaccine, even against Omicron.”
She said a type of vaccine called pan-sarbecovirus was a more sustainable strategy compared to repeated mRNA vaccines.
“We just don’t know enough about how durable the immunities are,” Lewin said.
She also believes the clinical definition for COVID-19 illness will soon be switched, which will likely change health procedures to focus isolation on vulnerable groups only.
“That would mean a much simpler messaging to the public to stay at home if sick,” Lewin said.
The comments from Lewin come after the institute provided the primary research and modelling for Australia’s plan to reopen the country during the current pandemic.
The comments come after a growing number of European countries, and the UK announced the end of most, if not all, COVID-19 restrictions.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) similarly said on Jan. 11: “A vaccination strategy based on repeated booster doses of the original vaccine composition is unlikely to be appropriate or sustainable.”
It further added that going forward, current vaccines designed for the original Wuhan variant may need to be updated to continue to provide sufficient levels of protection against Omicron and future variants.
The European Union’s drug regulator also expressed concern about the repeated vaccinations within short intervals, saying it “will not represent a sustainable long-term strategy.”
Marco Cavaleri, the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) head of vaccines strategy, said the approach of giving repeated booster shots every four months could cause “problems with immune response and [the] immune response may end up not being as good as we would like it to be.”
This comes after the interval for receiving a booster shot in Australia was repeatedly shortened from the initial recommendation of six months and currently sits at three months.
Australian governments have urged all eligible residents to receive a COVID-19 booster dose. Meanwhile, the Western Australia, South Australia, and Victorian state governments have mandated booster shots for workers in health care, aged care, and other essential industries.
Meanwhile, Prof. Peter Doherty, patron of the Doherty Institute, wrote that masking was important, even when triple vaccinated, because the “virus is in the air.”
“So, even if we’re triple vaccinated, there’s a good possibility that we’ll get a significant number (one may be enough) of Omicron virions up our nose and start making new virus progeny in our nasal epithelium,” Doherty said.