Johnson & Johnson vaccine

The US is making plans just in case COVID-19 vaccines need booster doses later, officials told a congressional hearing Thursday.

“We are planning for potential booster doses of vaccines, if they are needed,” Dr. David Kessler, chief science officer for the Biden administration’s COVID response, told a hearing of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. “As with other vaccines, a subsequent dose may be desirable.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that there were a few different approaches that could boost the potency of a COVID-19 vaccine.

One is to create a booster that would strengthen the original vaccine and would be strong enough to protect against variants. The other is to make a booster that would work against particular variants. While the variant first found in South Africa, known as B.1.351, is not dominant in the US, it theoretically could be a bigger problem for the existing vaccines, and vaccine makers could target that particular variant.

“The problem with that, is, that if you get more and more variants, that's almost like playing Whack-a -mole,” Fauci said.

“You hit this one, then you go to the other one, you go to the other one, and that's the reason why, what we're putting a lot of effort in, is to try and get a more universal vaccine that would cover all different types of variants. That's the ultimate end game,” Fauci said.

He added that research is already underway. Until then, scientists are trying to figure out what the most dangerous variant is and to make a special boost against that.