The World Health Organization (WHO) recently revised its vaccine guidance following a meeting of the agency’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE). SAGE no longer recommends annual COVID-19 vaccine boosters for healthy adults under 60 years of age after they have received both a primary vaccine series and booster. Further, they no longer recommend vaccinating healthy children aged six months to 17 years against COVID-19 at all. With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other national health agencies following suit with similar updates, the future of COVID-19 vaccine rollouts is becoming highly uncertain, says GlobalData.
Nancy Jaser, Pharma Analyst at GlobalData, comments, “Significant drops in global demand and revenue for COVID-19 vaccines are expected in the coming years, as the threat of the pandemic winds down and vaccination guidance by health authorities loosens. The massive outbreaks caused by the Omicron variant led to the currently high levels of immunity observed in all age groups through both vaccination efforts and infections across the globe. Combined with recent guidance calling for decreased use of boosters and the US Senate’s decision to end the national emergency declaration early, COVID-19 revenue streams may fade quickly for vaccine developers.”
SAGE has also updated its guidance on bivalent COVID-19 vaccines, now accepting the use of bivalent BA.5-specific vaccine doses for the primary series, due to the benefits observed in symptomatic disease. However, the agency highlighted that there is no evidence indicating the bivalent vaccine is more effective in preventing severe disease, further threatening the COVID-19 booster landscape. Since the threat of severe disease has diminished, health agencies and governments are now focused on shifting resources to vaccinate against other diseases such as RSV and influenza.
Jaser concludes, “Since SAGE’s recommendations are not binding, it is unclear how certain countries will react or modify their current vaccination campaigns. Most European countries, including the UK, have already restricted boosters to the highest-risk groups. Despite signs of decreasing funding and legislature to support booster rollouts, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a second booster dose in adults aged 65 years or older and is planning a meeting of its vaccine advisory committee in June to determine an action plan for the use of bivalent boosters during the upcoming fall season.”