End of the Vaccine Strategy Orientation Council, new vaccines developed to fight against variants, no generalization of the second booster dose to the entire population… Interview with the “Mister Vaccine” of the government, Alain Fischer, in charge to coordinate the vaccine strategy against Covid-19.
New vaccines in progress, absence of the Vaccine Strategy Orientation Council, extension of the booster dose… Alain Fischer, who manages the vaccine strategy put in place by the State, talks about the new perspectives linked to vaccination, to fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
On July 31, the Scientific Council was abolished: what about the Vaccine Strategy Orientation Council?
It was not in the previous law so it was not mentioned in the law, but the Vaccine Strategy Orientation Council, which I chaired, also stopped the work. The idea is that a new committee will be established to carry out the function performed by the Scientific Council as well as that provided by the Council on the Orientation of the Vaccine Strategy. I thought it should be in place in the fall.
Will you stay?
No. If the government asks me, I will try to answer it with my colleagues, but I will not assume any responsibility in this area.
A second booster dose has recently been extended to people at risk, including pregnant women: is it open to the rest of the general population?
This is not recommended. Now, if someone who is 40 years old, in good health, wants to have an extra booster, there is nothing stopping them from doing so. But it is not specifically recommended, because these people are well protected by the vaccinations they have had in the past. These are not the people who are at risk of going to the hospital.
Is it also due to the fact that the BA.5 variant does not concern you, to the point of generalizing this booster dose?
Yes the BA.5 variant does not cause more severe disease than the previous variants. In fact, from the BA.1 (Omicron) variant, all variants are highly transmissible, which explains why there have been more cases in recent months, but not so severe in terms of severity of the disease. for example, the variant we have in the fall of 2021, the Delta variant. Things will change if we have a new variant show up that causes an infection as bad as Delta. In this case, a recall of the entire population should probably be recommended. Until then, there is no such recommendation.
Is the current vaccine suitable for the new variants?
So the current vaccine is still the initial vaccine, the one developed in 2020. That is, the one based on the sequence of the virus, the so-called ancestral strain, the one that appeared in China. And this vaccine is effective. But there are also several other vaccines in development, which should be available in the fall. It is based on combinations of sequences, especially adding another sequence to an ancestor, either BA.1 (the first Omicron variant), or even BA.5 which can also be used.
Does that mean we all have to get vaccinated?
It’s not necessary. Certainly the most vulnerable people, that is to say the elderly, are very sick, but their partners to protect these people because the level of immunity is lower than young people who are in good health. In fact, it should be considered recommending a new booster to this audience. We will see that in the fall. But for young, healthy people, it is not necessary.
Is herd immunity achieved through vaccination?
Strictly speaking no. Given the level of transmission of the virus with different variants developed one behind the other, iThere is a level of transmission such that one cannot develop a resistance that can completely avoid this transmission. In this sense, we will not achieve collective immunity, as we hoped at the start of vaccination, because at the time, at the beginning of 2021, the variant that is circulating is not very transferable. On the other hand, vaccination maintains its goal of reducing transmission, reducing the number of cases and above all preventing serious forms.