The Omicron Variant Might Need A New Vaccine & Here's How Long We'll Have To Wait For One
Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson all say they’re looking into it. 🔬
Just when we thought we'd turned a corner on the pandemic, a new COVID-19 variant is here to potentially ruin the holiday travel season.
The recent discovery of the Omicron variant has many countries preparing for the worst by closing borders again. Vaccine makers are also trying to figure out if they'll need to come up with new defences against this heavily mutated strain.
They're all worried by early reports about the variant, which shows signs of potentially being more resistant to current vaccines than other strains.
"Early indications show this variant may be more transmissible than the Delta variant and current vaccines may be less effective against it," Sajid Javid, the U.K.'s health secretary, told British lawmakers last week.
The Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution met today to review what is known about the #COVID19 variant B.1.1.529.\nThey advised WHO that it should be designated a Variant of Concern.\nWHO has named it Omicron, in line with naming protocols https://bit.ly/3r8YrEd\u00a0pic.twitter.com/Gev1zIt1Ek— World Health Organization (WHO) (@World Health Organization (WHO)) 1637950290
The World Health Organization says that while information on the performance of current vaccines, testing and treatment against the variant is still limited, studies are underway to learn more. However, it maintains that "vaccines remain critical to reducing severe disease and death, including against the dominant circulating variant, Delta."
On Friday, Moderna said that the mutations described in Omicron represent a "significant potential risk to accelerate the waning of natural and vaccine-induced immunity."
Moderna is not only rapidly testing the effectiveness of its current vaccine against the Omicron variant, but it's also testing adaptations to the vaccine that could be more effective against the new variant.
The company says it's already studying multiple booster candidates that could boost immunity against the new variant.
"If we have to make a brand new vaccine I think that's going to be early 2022 before that's really going to be available in large quantities," Moderna's chief medical officer, Dr. Paul Burton, told the Andrew Marr Show on November 28.
Similarly, Pfizer and BioNTech said that if necessary, the companies could have a vaccine adapted for the Omicron variant ready to be shipped in about 100 days, according to Reuters.
"We understand the concern of experts and have immediately initiated investigations on variant B.1.1.529," said BioNTech in a statement.
Johnson & Johnson also says it's studying how well its vaccine works against the new Omicron variant.
Pfizer and BioNTech expect to have more data on the variant in about two weeks, which they say will help them to determine if their vaccine needs to be reworked.
Health Canada has a robust website with all the latest information on COVID-19 vaccines and can answer any questions you may have.
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