Story at a glance
- Vaccine makers are racing to find out whether current COVID-19 jabs provide adequate protection against omicron and how to adapt them to the strain.
- Moderna on Friday announced its strategy to address omicron.
- BioNTech said it has started developing a new vaccine for the omicron variant and is conducting research to see how well the existing vaccine works against the new strain.
Researchers across the globe are closely watching the omicron variant of the novel coronavirus that was recently designated as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The WHO said the new COVID-19 variant first discovered in South Africa poses a “very high” risk as it has a high number of mutations, some of which “may be associated with immune escape and higher transmissibility.”
Health experts, however, have stressed that data on the omicron variant is very limited and there’s still much to learn about the mutated strain.
Despite the unknowns, vaccine makers are racing to find out whether current jabs provide adequate protection against omicron and how to adapt them to the strain.
Moderna on Friday announced its strategy to address omicron. The biotech company said it has already evaluated a higher dose of current booster shots in adults and is studying two booster candidates “designed to anticipate mutations such as those that have emerged in the Omicron variant.” Additionally, Moderna is moving forward to develop an omicron-specific booster candidate.
The company said it will take weeks to determine how much the mutations have impacted the efficacy of vaccines currently on the market.
Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Monday it will take months to develop and distribute vaccine tailored specifically for the omicron variant, while a higher booster dose could be ready much faster.
“Depending on how much it [efficacy] dropped, we might decide on the one hand to give a higher dose of the current vaccine around the world to protect people, maybe people at very high risk, the immunocompromised, and the elderly should need a fourth dose,” Bancel told CNBC.
BioNTech, the German company that partnered with Pfizer to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, said it has started developing a new vaccine for the omicron variant and is conducting research to see how well the existing vaccine works against the new strain, according to Reuters.
“The first steps of developing a potential new vaccine overlap with the research necessary in order to evaluate whether a new shot will be needed,” the company said, according to Reuters.
BioNTech also expects efficacy data in the coming weeks.
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