MÁRIO CRUZ/LUSA

Vaccines tweaked to Omicron “arriving in September”

2nd generation vaccines only likely to be ready full year later

The unspoken pandemic dilemma got a little bigger today – a day when there were more deaths associated with Covid-19 than there have been on any single day since February.

The reason is that vaccines tweaked to ‘new variants’ are still at least five months away – while ‘2nd generation vaccines’ promising “more potent immunity, reduced transmissibility, cheaper manufacturing, easier transport, and mutation-proofing” won’t be ready for at least 17 months.

That leaves the sector of society most vulnerable to infection (the elderly and immunocompromised – already multiply-jabbed) with no option but to keep receiving ‘boosters’ that offer dubious protection.

This is why health minister Marta Temido has intimated there are no immediate plans for a ‘mass administration of boosters’ to the wider population. There would be no point.

The people who continue to be affected by Omicron (a variant with sub-variants that are milder than predecessor strains of SARS-CoV-2) are invariably the ones dying now.

The latest DGS figures show in terms of infections and deaths Portugal is way beyond the red lines set by specialists. As Marta Temido explained yesterday, the huge jump in the number of infections has a lot to do with the increased transmissibility of the BA.5 strain of Omicron circulating in Portugal.

Right now, deaths are running at 41 per 1 million inhabitants over 14-days (specialists had set the limit at 20 per million – but this has proved impossible due to increased transmissibility of dominant strain/s and the waning effect of current (ancestral) vaccines).

According to EMA – the European Medicines Authority – “The first updated vaccines could be approved in September” and, because they will still be using mRNA technology “they are easily adaptable” but second generation vaccines, “which will not be on the market this year”.

Trials are ongoing with these 2nd generation vaccines, coincidentally at a time when trials into the current vaccines have still not concluded the ‘first three year’ period in which after effects and consequences can be fully mapped. A number are described as ‘protein subunit vaccines’ (not mRNA), and apparently have several advantages over mRNA.

TSF Rádio adds that deaths from all causes is above levels hoped for for this time of year – a collateral effect of the pandemic that doctors have warned was likely due to so many services being compromised to focus on Covid-19.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com