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Moderna CEO says existing vaccines may be less effective against Omicron variant

Moderna head says it will take months to develop a new shot of COVID-19 vaccine that works against the Omnicron variant of coronavirus.
Says researchers were concerned because 32 of 50 mutations in the variant were on spiked protein, which vaccines use to bolster immune system against virus.
The World Health Organization has called the risk from Omicron “very high”.

HONG KONG: It will take months to develop a new shot of COVID-19 vaccine that works against the Omicron variant as the existing vaccines may be less effective against the new strain, the head of US vaccine manufacturer Moderna has told Financial Times.

Stephane Bancel told the newspaper in an interview published Tuesday that data would be available on the effectiveness of the current vaccines in the next two weeks but scientists were not optimistic.

“All the scientists I’ve talked to … are like ‘this is not going to be good’,” he told the newspaper.

Bancel’s warning came as G7 health ministers held emergency talks on the new variant, which is spreading around the world and prompting nations to close their borders once again or impose fresh travel restrictions.

The World Health Organization has called the risk from Omicron “very high”.

Bancel said researchers were concerned because 32 of 50 mutations found in the Omicron variant were on the spike protein, a part of the virus that vaccines use to bolster the immune system against Covid.

He told the FT there would be a “material drop” in the effectiveness of current jabs against Omicron.

FILE PHOTO: Walmart pharmacist holds a vial of the Moderna coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine inside a Walmart department store in West Haven, Connecticut, U.S., February 17, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

Moderna has already said it is working on an Omicron-specific vaccine, as is US drugmaker Pfizer.

Chief executive Bancel said his company could deliver between two billion and three billion doses in 2022 but it would be dangerous to shift all production to an Omicron-specific shot with other strains of the virus still in circulation.

His more alarming tone contrasts with efforts by politicians to project calm regarding Omicron.

US President Joe Biden said Monday the strain was “not a cause for panic”.

Ahmed Mukhtar Naqshbandi

Media person and communication expert for over 25 years. Worked with Dow Jones News, World Bank, CNBC Pakistan, Aaj TV, ARY TV, Abbtakk TV, Business Recorder, Pakistan Observer, Online News Network, TTI Magazine and other local and world Publications.

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