The University of Iowa Health Care is one of more than 20 sites participating in a vaccine study analyzing how the human body responds to a second COVID-19 booster tailored to virus variants.
The University of Iowa Health Care is participating in a vaccine trial studying the immune responses of individuals shortly after receiving their second COVID-19 booster shot.
The National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is sponsoring the trial, which is being conducted nationwide at more than 20 sites.
Patricia Winokur, executive dean of Carver College of Medicine and professor of internal medicine covering infectious diseases, said doctors and scientists who have studied COVID-19 vaccines find them effective in the short term, but protection wears out quickly over time.
She said the virus had evolved into different variants of the original strain. Winokur said this means that to develop the most effective vaccine possible, researchers need to better understand the body’s response.
“We’re trying to understand, very deeply, the immune response to these vaccines,” Winokur said. “By combining different vaccine variants, vaccine prototypes, we’re hoping we’ll start to understand this really complex immune response that’s happening from SARS-COVID vaccines as a whole.”
Variant vaccines, which are tailored to virus variants, are made the same way as the original COVID-19 vaccines, using mRNA, but this messenger RNA plan for vaccines, Winokur said, was modified.
“Variant vaccines protect better against variant strains — typically antibody protection is about 13 times higher,” Winokur said. “The one thing we’re always happy to see is that by getting the original strain vaccine, the prototype vaccine, people were protected against serious disease, even with the variant viruses that have been circulating.”
UI Health Care received funding and is participating in this trial because of its reputation, Winokur said. Vaccine patients have been very compliant, and the user interface also has a very good history of providing good data for previous vaccine trials, she said.
Winokur said COVID-19 could become quite similar to the flu, with strains changing every year and the need for an updated vaccination plan, like with the flu vaccine.
“We know that every year the flu also changes the proteins in its outer shell, and we have to keep evolving our vaccines to these new variants that are happening year after year to try to really get the best protection out of these vaccines,” Winokur said. . “It is very possible that this is also the case for coronaviruses.”