(WXYZ) — Health experts don't believe COVID-19 will ever go away entirely, so attention is turning to the development of a long-term strategy to provide protection against the virus.
Researchers, government scientists, and representatives from Pfizer and Moderna met at the World Vaccine Congress in Washington, D.C. to debate how future COVID booster shots should be designed in order to provide protection from the virus.
Everyone agrees the shots must be updated to continue to protect people from severe illness. However, there isn't agreement on how best to move forward.
One of the most popular ideas floated around at the conference was the development of a universal vaccine. This so-called pancoronavirus vaccine would protect against all strains of COVID-19, both the known and the ones that have yet to emerge. Such a vaccine could possibly even help prevent another pandemic.
The downside is that the development of a pancoronavirus vaccine could take at least two or three years, if not longer. However, scientists at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research are already moving on the idea. They have begun working on a universal vaccine, and human trials are underway.
For now, Pfizer and Moderna are taking a different approach.
Both companies are working on developing variant-specific vaccines, which would target the dominant strains that are circulating. For example, Moderna is running clinical trials on a vaccine for the fall that targets the omicron variant and the original coronavirus strain in a single shot.
But some experts say this isn't a sustainable strategy, since new variants are appearing every three or six months.
There are two important considerations in the development of a pancoronavirus vaccine. The technology would need to be simple enough for manufacturers to produce on a mass scale. And, another critical area is the financing for the vaccine's production.
In the meantime, the current vaccines provide a high level of protection from severe illness from the COVID variants and subvariants. But, the protection does fade over time.
So, again, make sure you are following the recommendations for booster shots. And if you still haven't gotten vaccinated, you shouldn't wait any longer. COVID will likely be around for a long time, just like influenza.
Additional Coronavirus information and resources:
View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.
See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.