The World Health Organization said Tuesday its expert panel on COVID vaccine composition is currently evaluating evidence on new variants of the virus to determine whether vaccines need to be updated. Members of the agency’s Technical Advisory Group on COVID-19 Vaccine Composition, an independent group of experts, outlined the process in a commentary in Nature Medicine journal, in which they agreed the vaccines are still offering a high level of protection against severe disease caused by all of the variants, including omicron, which is dominant globally. “However, there has been continuous and substantial evolution of SARS-CoV-2 since the virus emerged, posing challenges to the ongoing public health response, including ensuring that vaccines continue to provide protection,” the authors wrote. As the virus continues to spread by community transmission, further evolution is possible and the trajectory and timeline of virus evolution is uncertain, they added. “The current approach to vaccine antigen composition may not be sustainable in the long term, given the length of time for vaccine development, the paucity of surveillance data globally and the regulatory requirements in different countries,” they wrote. “Enhanced mucosal immunity may improve protection against infection and transmission of SARS-CoV-2, and the TAG-CO-VAC encourages vaccine development in this area.”

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