Are vaccines against Covid-19 doomed to lose their effectiveness quickly in the face of mutated versions of the virus? Some startups have been working to develop vaccines that will be effective for years, or even more than that, but the prospects for achieving this are still unclear.
Commenting on a project to develop a vaccine, this French start-up company has started its first clinical trials on which “the vaccine may provide protection for years,” said Alexis Perolis, director of OSI Immunoterbiotics.
The promise is a vaccine that fights the emergence of new mutated versions, strains of the Coronavirus that differ from those for which the first vaccines were developed.
And this is one of the points that are currently unknown to the epidemic: How effective will the vaccines that are currently being used as US Pfizer vaccines when these mutated versions proliferate?
So far it appears to be still effective, but Pfizer boss Albert Burla himself has finally considered that he will likely have to renew his vaccine dose annually, so that it is up to date.
Faced with this challenge, biotechnology companies are adopting a different path from current vaccines: they seek to first stimulate T-lymphocytes, part of the immune response that focuses on monitoring and eliminating virus-infected cells – not on the virus itself.
On the other hand, the vaccines used first aim to produce antibodies that recognize and destroy the virus directly before it infects a cell. This does not mean that these vaccines do not stimulate any T-cell response – first data is somewhat encouraging – but they are not the priority component of treatment.
However, T lymphocytes theoretically have several advantages over antibodies, as they can survive longer in the body and respond to components of the virus that are much less likely to mutate than those detected by antibodies.
In France, the “T response” pathway is being followed by “OSI Immunoterbiotics” and its rival “Osifax” in Lyon, and it is promising a “global” vaccine, meaning that it is ready to respond to any potential mutant. The two companies received millions of euros in funding from the French state, while France delayed developing an anti-Coronavirus vaccine.
These projects are rare due to the lack of laboratories that believe in a universal vaccine. Of the nearly 400 projects to develop a vaccine against Covid-19 that the World Health Organization has counted, few adopt this principle.
The most advanced is the US company “Emunity Bio”, which published somewhat encouraging results last month, but is still in its early stages.
But the effectiveness of these vaccines is still uncertain, as none of the companies involved have made promises to develop such a vaccine before next year, and many scientists doubt the success of this approach.
Some question whether seeking to respond in advance to the emergence of new strains in the future is delusional. British virologist Julian Tang warned that “when there is a mass vaccination, this in itself is a pressure that may lead to the development of the virus to escape from the vaccine whatever.” He saw the development of such vaccines as a “double-edged sword.”
The other big question is to what extent our bodies would fight the virus if we set its response with T lymphocytes.
“I have doubts about the effectiveness of such a vaccine,” said French virologist Yves Godin.
He said that if the antibody response was not good, the T-lymphocytes “would not be of great benefit,” stressing that the ideal vaccine is the effective vaccine on both levels.
But if these new vaccines become a reality, then they will be used at least in Europe and the United States on people who have received the current vaccines, and therefore the antibodies in these will be ready.
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