Next generation COVID vaccines to be cheaper, easier, more protective

The COVID-19 vaccines are among the best ever created. They’re safe and more than 90% effective at preventing any disease, and even more so at blocking serious illness and death.

Now drug companies are trying to make them even better.

Some future shots will be more effective against certain variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Others are aiming to cover several types of severe respiratory viruses, including the first SARS, which caused outbreaks between 2002 and 2004, or even all viruses in the larger coronavirus family. 

Companies are testing vaccines that won’t need to be kept cold, won’t require two shots, will have fewer side effects, can be produced more efficiently and can be delivered without needles to make them easier to provide in rural areas and the developing world.

“There’s a long history within vaccinology of second-generation vaccines being multiply improved over first-generation vaccines. That’s just the way things go,” said Scot Roberts, chief scientific officer of Altimmune, a biotech based in Gaithersburg, Maryland, that is developing an inhaled vaccine.

None of these second-generation COVID-19 vaccines will be ready until at least later this summer, and many, including Altimmune’s, not until early next year at the soonest. No single vaccine will have all the desired attributes, a number of experts said.

But with potentially every one of Earth’s nearly 8 billion inhabitants needing one or two initial doses and potentially boosters, there’s plenty of room for different approaches, a number of experts said.

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