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VERIFY: How long will it take to get vaccine boosters for new strains of COVID-19?

Drug company Moderna began development on a vaccine booster to deal with the South African strain. Will it take as long as the first vaccine to be approved?

WASHINGTON — How long would it take to update the vaccines or boosters for the new strains of the coronavirus? Remember, it took about nine months from development to distribution of the first vaccines here in the United States.

Will it be a similar wait?


What is the approval process for coronavirus vaccine boosters?


Similar to the original approval process, but perhaps not as long, time-wise.


What we found:

Time and again, experts have said pharmaceutical companies will be able to adjust their vaccines to deal with new strains of the virus. Drug company Moderna has already begun that process in response to the South African strain.

“The manufacturers now that they've done one COVID vaccine, can fairly rapidly adjust the vaccine to better fit the new strains,” Dr. Schaffner said.

Both Dr. Schaffner and Dr. Gupta said that adjustment of the vaccines will require FDA approval. If you recall, that process involves several rounds of testing and took place for several months.

These boosters, or adjustment vaccines, will also require several phases of testing to be approved

However, Dr. Gupta said:

“Assuming that both Moderna and Pfizer and other companies will use the same vaccine technology, this will shorten the approval process likely by half the time or more, and allow for a potential vaccine booster or new vaccine to get to patients also in record time.”

This isn’t uncharted territory for scientists. Remember, drug companies already do a vaccine booster every year for the flu.

“They do that twice a year,” Dr. Schaffner said. “The entire length is about eight months in advance of the first inoculations.

You can expect a quicker process compared to the initial vaccine development, testing, and roll out.

However,  we don’t have an exact timeline at this point.

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