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Bioengineer unsurprised by potential need for COVID vaccine boosters

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

UofT Bioengineer Professor isn't surprised by the announcement of possible booster shots

Pfizer-BioNTech announced possible shots six to 12 months after first dose

Manufacturer wouldn't need new Health Canada approval for boosters

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A Toronto bioengineer is not surprised by the possible need for COVID-19 vaccine booster shots.

University of Toronto Professor Dr. Omar Khan said a third dose of the vaccine is expected, as variants of the coronavirus keep changing.

“You’re vaccinating against something new now. You’re vaccinating against a new variant,” he said. “These current vaccines were made for a certain version of the coronavirus…an earlier version,” he said.

In fact, Khan predicts our third doses, and beyond, will be tracked much like the yearly flu shot.

“You try to pick a part of the new variant that is common to many other variants and that way you can give yourself the broadest possible protection,” he said. “This way you can capture more of these variants and maintain broader immunity.”

Earlier this month, Pfizer-BioNTech announced those who received their COVID-19 vaccine, will likely need a third dose six to 12 months after their first round.

In an e-mail sent to NEWS 1130, a Pfizer spokesperson said, “Our trials are ongoing, and we will share updates on our booster study when we have them.”

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Along with the flu shot, Khan said the change in the vaccine would be so small, a manufacturer would not need to get a new Health Canada approval.

As for needing to stay with the same manufacturer for your third dose as you had for your first or second, he said it doesn’t matter.

“People get different vaccines for different things, and it’s fine, so there shouldn’t be a restriction on people who finish their course and get a different vaccine later,” Khan said. “We get so many vaccines throughout our life, and no one is ever restricted to some vaccines or some manufacturer. That’s really not how our immune system works.”

Khan said the most important thing is for the new versions of the vaccine be sent globally, so new mutations don’t continue to arise in other countries.

“Then we really will not be able to get a hold on this thing.”