Global Virus Network Recommends Moving Forward With Boosters for COVID-19 Response

Fragile populations should receive a booster third dose of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine to help protect against emerging variants

BALTIMORE, MD, August 10, 2021: Members of the Global Virus Network (GVN), a coalition comprised of human and animal virologists from 63 Centers of Excellence and 11 Affiliates in 35 countries, and colleagues, today shared that GVN supports policies by global health leaders to offer booster doses, or third doses of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines, to fragile populations such as the elderly and immunocompromised people. GVN also recommends continuing to monitor emerging data to assess the need for boosters for other groups and populations.

The World Health Organization’s request for a moratorium on the administration of a booster comes at a time when many low- and middle-income countries are currently facing very low vaccination rates and challenges with administering doses. GVN scientists believe that the only way to control the COVID-19 pandemic is through worldwide vaccination, but as nations struggle to raise their vaccination rates and address their unvaccinated, the GVN believes it is wise to better prepare for future variants by reinforcing the immunity of fragile populations with booster vaccines where possible.

“This is one of the more challenging questions facing the effort to control the virus on a worldwide basis – should we be boosting the immunity of those already vaccinated if their immunity is starting to wear off, or should we focus maximum resources on initial immunizations for populations in need?” said Christian Bréchot, MD, PhD, President of the GVN and Professor at the University of South Florida. “The reality is, until the pandemic is controlled on a worldwide basis, it is not under control. GVN believes it is reasonable, and in fact feasible, to meet both the global demand for vaccination and provide sustained protection to vulnerable individuals who have already achieved their first vaccination regimen.”

New data is showing that even countries with a very high rate of vaccination, many have not yet achieved herd immunity. Some research is also suggesting that even an 80% vaccination rate may not be sufficient against highly contagious variants, such as the Delta variant. And in recent cases, breakthrough infections of the Delta variant in fully vaccinated people have revealed similar viral loads and contamination risks as unvaccinated individuals.

“While data has shown COVID-19 mRNA vaccines continue to provide protection against severe disease of COVID-19 and mortality months after immunization, even against the current variants, it’s important to acknowledge that there is a steady decline of COVID-19 neutralizing antibodies being seen in most vaccinees six months after the second dose,” said Linfa Wang, PhD, GVN Center of Excellence Director and Director of the Program in Emerging Infectious Diseases at Duke-NUS Medical School. “High levels of neutralizing antibodies and quality of memory B cells will be required to provide a lasting immunity and prevent further spread of this virus.”

As the science continues to evolve, the GVN believes that all nations need to clearly define their vaccination priorities, remembering that the environment of one country should not be the basis of decisions being made for a different country’s population. The members of the GVN are also united in their call for a stronger, international collaborative effort to share COVID-19 vaccination and variant data so global leaders and politicians can better base their decisions on science, rather than public sentiment.

The scientists of GVN will continue to stay tuned to developments of vaccines designed specifically for current variants, keeping in mind that the current vaccines do offer a level of cross-protection against the circulating variants.

For the full GVN recommendation, please click here.

About the Global Virus Network (GVN)

The Global Virus Network (GVN) is essential and critical in the preparedness, defense and first research response to emerging, exiting and unidentified viruses that pose a clear and present threat to public health, working in close coordination with established national and international institutions. It is a coalition comprised of eminent human and animal virologists from 63 Centers of Excellence and 11 Affiliates in 35 countries worldwide, working collaboratively to train the next generation, advance knowledge about how to identify and diagnose pandemic viruses, mitigate and control how such viruses spread and make us sick, as well as develop drugs, vaccines and treatments to combat them. No single institution in the world has expertise in all viral areas other than the GVN, which brings together the finest medical virologists to leverage their individual expertise and coalesce global teams of specialists on the scientific challenges, issues and problems posed by pandemic viruses. The GVN is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, please visit www.gvn.org. Follow us on Twitter @GlobalVirusNews

Media Contact:

Nora Samaranayake, GVN
443-823-0613
[email protected]

Global Virus Network’s Position on the Administration of Booster Doses of the COVID-19 Vaccine

Scientists from the Global Virus Network (GVN) centers have discussed the World Health Organization’s request for a moratorium on the administration of a booster, or a third dose of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine for Pfizer or Moderna recipients, while many around the world have not yet received their initial immunizations. Considering the emerging variants of COVID-19, the GVN supports offering booster doses to better support fragile populations, such as the elderly and immunocompromised people. The GVN believes that all global nations need to clearly define their vaccination priorities and base their decisions on administering boosters on scientific data, versus politically driven sentiment.

GVN scientists believe that the best way to end the COVID-19 pandemic is through worldwide vaccination. GVN acknowledges that a systemic, collaborative effort has been challenging for many low- and middle-income countries currently facing very low vaccination rates, despite efforts by COVAX and other health organizations. At the same time, GVN believes it is reasonable, and in fact feasible, to meet both the global demand for vaccination and provide sustained protection to vulnerable individuals who have already achieved their first vaccination regimen.

COVID-19 mRNA vaccines continue to provide sufficient protection against severe disease of COVID-19 and mortality months after immunization, even against the current variants, but we already see clear trends emerging. There is a steady decline of COVID-19 antibodies being seen six months after the second dose and that high levels of neutralizing antibodies and good quality of memory B cells are be required to provide a lasting immunity and prevent the spread of the infection.

In fact, even countries with a very high rate of vaccination have not yet achieved herd immunity. Data is showing that even an 80% vaccination rate may not be sufficient against highly contagious variants, such as the Delta variant. Recent studies have shown breakthrough infections of the Delta variant in fully vaccinated people, who have been seen to share similar viral loads and contamination risks as unvaccinated individuals. As nations struggle to raise their vaccination rates and address their unvaccinated, GVN believes we must prepare for even more contagious variants by reinforcing the immunity of our fragile populations with booster vaccines. At this time, GVN recommends continuing to monitor the data to assess the need for boosters for other groups and populations.

The scientists of GVN will continue to stay tuned to developments of vaccines designed specifically for current variants, keeping in mind that the current vaccines do offer a level of cross-protection against the circulating variants and that the environment of one country should not be the basis of decisions being made for a different country’s population.

Thus, the GVN supports the move to create a strategy for booster doses that can help support fragile populations while maintaining the effort to vaccinate countries in need. GVN also recommends a stronger, international collaborative effort to share data so global leaders and politicians can better base their decisions on science, rather than sentiment.