Vaccines Against New COVID Variants Being Prepared For Autumn

Photo: KK for Brno Daily, 2021

Prague, Aug 27 (CTK) – Manufacturers are preparing vaccines adapted to new variants of COVID-19 for autumn, Czech Vaccinological Society head Roman Chlibek has said on the X network, formerly Twitter.

Health Minister Vlastimil Valek (TOP 09) said this week that Czechia’s COVID vaccination strategy for the autumn is being prepared by the the State Health Institute (SZU).

For the autumn months, the Czech Republic will receive the latest type of vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech, if the type is approved for the XBB variant.. According to vaccinologists, no difference will be newly made between basic vaccinations and booster doses.

“The Comirnaty vaccine adapted to Omicron XBB.1.5 for vaccination in the autumn and winter of 2023/2024 is currently under review by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). It is requested for all age groups from six months,” wrote Chlibek, who heads the Health Minister’s team of advisors, the National Institute for Pandemic Management (NIZP).

A new vaccine for the XBB variant is also being prepared by Novavax, which has part of its production in Czechia. Unlike Pfizer/BioNTech’s Comirnaty, which is based on viral mRNA, Novavax’s vaccine is protein-based. “Our data showed that the vaccine (…) elicits broadly neutralizing responses against XBB sub-variants, including EG 5.1 and XBB 1.16.6,” Filip Dubovsky, president of research and development at Novavax, said in a press release. The company is seeking the approval of the vaccine for this autumn, he said.

According to information published by the Czech Vaccinological Society, the EMA has modified the vaccination schedule of Comirnaty’s vaccines to adapt it to the omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants. It is newly possible to also give the vaccine to those never vaccinated before. Up to recently, the original type of the vaccine was recommended for them.

The basic vaccination scheme are three doses. “Re-vaccination with the next dose no earlier than three months after the previous one for those already vaccinated,” the Society said.

According to the Health Ministry’s data, 6.997 million people, or about 65.5 percent of the population have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in Czechia so far. The number of applied jabs has been increasing recently, with 36,870 doses administered since the beginning of the year, mostly to people already vaccinated. About 1,500 people have been newly vaccinated this year.

Some countries currently see an increase in the number of coronavirus cases. In Czechia, like neighbouring countries, the situation is stable, according to Valek’s statement this week. Nevertheless, the number of positive tests has been rising slightly in Czechia since the end of July. While in July it stood at about 50 a week, it reached more than 90 on Monday, August 21, alone.

It is now rare for people to get tested when they show symptoms of the disease. Some take the test at home, others have it done by a GP. On Monday, when the number of positive tests were the highest this week, doctors made about 120 PCR tests and just under 600 antigen tests. At the peak of the epidemic, there were hundreds of thousands of tests a day and tens of thousands a day tested positive.

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