Novavax working on vaccine to combat omicron variant

Biotechnology company Novavax is working on a vaccine to combat the new omicron coronavirus variant that was first detected in South Africa. 

Public health officials in the U.S. and abroad are worried the omicron variant could be more transmissible and resistant to current vaccines due to the 30 mutations at the spike protein. This protein is the region that interacts with human cells prior to entry. 

Novavax said its vaccine would contain the mutated spike protein in the omicron variant so individuals can develop an immune response, a company spokesperson said.

The testing and manufacturing of the shot will likely “take a few weeks,” the spokesperson added. 

The company’s vaccine received emergency use approval in Indonesia earlier this month and was later approved for emergency use by the Philippines. The company has yet to file for approval in the U.S.

Other vaccine developers said they have already begun evaluating how effective their vaccines are on the new variant. BioNTech said Friday that the company will know in two weeks how effective the vaccine it developed with Pfizer is against the omicron variant. 

“We expect more data from the laboratory tests in two weeks at the latest. These data will provide more information about whether B.1.1.529 could be an escape variant that may require an adjustment of our vaccine if the variant spreads globally,” a BioNTech spokesperson told Reuters.

The omicron strain has triggered a worldwide scramble to contain the spread, with many countries restricting air travel from several African countries a day after the variant was announced. 

The new variant was first found in South Africa and is confirmed to have spread to the United Kingdom, Israel, Hong Kong, Belgium and Botswana.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) has already declared a state of emergency in preparation for a surge in cases in the state, although there have been no confirmed cases reported in the U.S. 

Updated at 1:19 p.m.

Tags Clinical trials Kathy Hochul Novavax Novavax COVID-19 vaccine Variants of SARS-CoV-2
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