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Second and third generation COVID vaccines are coming, author says

·3-min read

Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the White House, said this week that a universal COVID-19 vaccine that would protect against multiple variants will "take years to develop."

In the meantime, pharmaceutical companies are developing a booster that protects against the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Moderna (MRNA) plans to seek Food and Drug Administration approval for its COVID-19-specific booster this summer, which would make it available in the latter half of 2022, NBC News reported on Thursday. Pfizer (PFE) announced on Tuesday that it had begun tests on its own Omicron-targeted vaccine.

In a new interview, Gregory Zuckerman — an investigative reporter at The Wall Street Journal and author of "A Shot to Save the World: The Inside Story of the Life-or-Death Race for a COVID-19 Vaccine" — says pharma companies will develop "second and third generation" COVID-19 vaccines that may protect against additional ailments, including the common flu.

"I do think Pfizer, Moderna, and the other companies can adjust their vaccines," Zuckerman told Yahoo Finance on Nov. 15, before the detection of the Omicron variant. "So you'll go in, and there will be second and third generation vaccines."

"You'll go into a doctor's office and get a COVID vaccine, but it'll be an all-in-one, maybe with a flu vaccine, maybe they'll throw something else in there too," he adds.

Some public health experts have called for a second version of the Trump administration's vaccine development program, Operation Warp Speed, in response to the emergence of variants like Omicron, Axios reports.

The debate over the future of COVID-19 vaccines comes as the globe on Friday exceeded 10 billion doses administered — a number far greater than the world population of 7.9 billion people. But those doses have not been distributed equitably, The New York Times reports.

In wealthy countries, 77% of people have received at least one dose, the Times found. In low-income countries, that figure drops to 10%.

Despite the ongoing Omicron surge, daily average cases worldwide over the last several days have fallen below the nearly 3.5 million cases recorded on Monday, which marked the highest total seen in a single day during the pandemic, according to The New York Times coronavirus tracker.

FILE - Cristina Licup receives her COVID-19 booster shot where she works at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale in New York, Monday, Sept. 27, 2021.   A requirement to get vaccinated against COVID-19 kicks in Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022 for millions of health care workers in about half the states. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
Cristina Licup receives her COVID-19 booster shot where she works at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale in New York, Monday, Sept. 27, 2021. A requirement to get vaccinated against COVID-19 kicks in Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022 for millions of health care workers in about half the states. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Some public health experts say the widespread immunity imbued by the highly contagious variant may afford broad protection against the virus. The World Health Organization on Monday said the globe could reach a turning point in the pandemic this year, according to comments from Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Speaking to Yahoo Finance, Zuckerman predicted that the world will never eradicate COVID-19 but the virus will eventually "melt into the background."

"Down the road, I believe that this pandemic is going to end but this virus is not going away," he says. "It's going to be endemic."

Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies will continue to test and develop new vaccines as variants emerge, Zuckerman said.

"I don't want people to be too discouraged," he says. "They're trying to stay ahead of this thing."

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