Looking Forward to Next-Generation Vaccines

The vaccines were an incredible accomplishment that saved millions of lives. Now we need vaccines that provide next-genertion protection

By Ryan McGreal

Posted March 24, 2022 in Blog (Last Updated March 24, 2022)

Look, anti-vaxxers are gonna anti-vax no matter what, but reasonable people need to be able to have grownup conversations about the current state of COVID vaccines.

As I see it, there are three main areas of concern:

The first and biggest problem is the lack of global equity in vaccine access. No matter what else we do, COVID will continue to plague the world as long as whole populations are denied equal and timely access. The global community needs to address this as an immediate priority.

The second problem is that our approved vaccines still target the original wild variant of the virus. We need new vaccines that target newer strains or, better yet, target more highly conserved parts of the virus to provide broader protection from future variants.

The third big problem is that vaccine-induced immunity starts to wane as little as three months after receiving it. We need vaccines that provide much longer-lasting protection if we want to get (re)infection rates down to a more acceptable level.

The gloomy alternative is for all of us to risk getting reinfected several times a year, with each new infection carrying a nontrivial risk of cardiovascular, neurological and other inflammatory long-term damage. That's a lot of dice rolls for long-term health.

It would be fantastic if we could get to the point where a vaccine booster in the fall provides robust immunity throughout next year, somewhat analogous to how influenza vaccines generally worked pre-COVID.

There are also some promising new vaccine candidates that are inhaled rather than injected. This could trigger more robust protection by activating an immune response at the typical point of entry for the virus itself instead of the intramuscular upper arm.

Shoutout to the McMaster University researchers working on a vaccine that both targets highly conserved parts of the coronavirus and is inhaled rather than injected. Fingers crossed that this kind of research leads to some big breakthroughs.

Bottom line: the vaccines were an incredible accomplishment that were hugely effective against the original wild variant of COVID. Now we need the next generation of vaccines to take us into a healthier and safer future for everyone.