PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In the world of vaccine development, doctors say 2 years is the blink of an eye. But the COVID vaccine was the result of a tremendous acceleration of the timeline for vaccines to be developed.

The COVID booster shot re-upped the antibodies in people. The vaccine was made for the original strain of the vaccine and not modified to tackle a variant like omicron. Flu shots change year to year because strains of flu change, using the pre-existing vaccine and adapting it to the current strain.

Flu has more variability than COVID.

But the target is moving. Chasing variants won’t work — if a vaccine was made for, say, the omicron variant, by the time it’s ready we’d be on the zeta variant.

“What I think is going to happen is COVID is slowly going to move into the ranks of those other 4 and cause the seasonal ickies but don’t cause trouble for most people.”

— Marcel Curlin, OHSU

Another approach that is seriously being looked at is a universal vaccine to cover all the different coronaviruses.

Marcel Curlin, the medical director for Occupational Health at OHSU, said it’s unclear how long that may take.

“In the current era, who knows? Because it might be a lot faster than that just because of the amount of resources – and also because we have a much more developed suite of research tools,” Curlin told KOIN 6 News.

There are some Phase One studies on a universal coronavirus vaccine now. Curlin guesses it may take another 3 or 4 years before something promising is seen.

And for every vaccine that is approved there are a hundred vaccine candidates in various developmental stages.

COVID, in some ways, is an easier problem than flu because it doesn’t change. The problem is how transmissible and viral it is. COVID will become endemic. There will always be some native immunity the virus will encounter and eventually COVID will become less severe.

“There are about 7 coronaviruses out there. SARS Co-V2, the one we are all dealing with, and then there’s MERS and then there’s the original SARS 1 that killed a number of people and then there are these four other ones that cause the common cold,” Curlin said. “What I think is going to happen is COVID is slowly going to move into the ranks of those other 4 and cause the seasonal ickies but don’t cause trouble for most people.”

There are about 2000 people participating in a study from before most people were infected and before vaccines were available. They provide occasional blood samples that further a better understanding of the immune system and how long immunity lasts — especially with new variants.