COVID-19: ‘Highly Infectious’ Omicron Variant and Booster Injections May Require ‘Double’ Dose, Moderna CEO Says

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COVID-19: ‘Highly Infectious’ Omicron Variant and Booster Injections May Require ‘Double’ Dose, Moderna CEO Says


The chief of drugmaker Moderna said he believes the Omicron variant is “highly contagious” and that it is “highly possible” that the effectiveness of the vaccines will decrease – adding that the boosters may require a “double” dose. to provide the best protection.

The CEO of the creator of the COVID vaccine, Stéphane Bancel, said the new strain is overtaking Delta in South Africa at a faster rate than before.

“It took about four months for Delta to take control of Beta, and it looks like it will only take a few weeks for this new variant to take control of Delta,” he told CNBC.

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The new mutation – identified for the first time by researchers from southern Africa – would already be present in most countries.

Albert Bourla, chief executive of rival vaccine maker Pfizer / BioNTech, said he was “very confident” that the jab will work against all known mutations in the coronavirus, including Omicron.

However, he said his company has already started making a new vaccine for the variant, adding, “Within 95 days we will basically have a new vaccine. “

Both stressed that more data is needed to fully understand whether B.1.1.529 is more contagious or resistant to vaccines.

Bancel said: “Given the large number of mutations, it is quite possible that the efficacy of the vaccine, all of them, will decrease. But we have to wait for the data to find out if this is true and how far it goes. “

The high number of mutations on the peak protein that the virus uses to infect human cells could mean that existing vaccines need to be changed.

He said a higher dose reminder would be the “first line of defense”.

“We lowered the dose of a booster from a current vaccine, so we have a lot of safety data showing that we could go back to a higher microgram dose to double the dose of a current vaccine, which should offer better protection than the third 50 microgram booster dose, ”he said.

“It is therefore the first line of defense, which can be activated immediately. “

Mr Bancel’s comments appeared to reignite nervousness in financial markets after Omicron caused disruption last Friday.

Pharmaceuticals were among the losers, in a large sell-off across Europe on Tuesday, with the FTSE 100 in London down 1.4% in morning trades.

AJ Bell Chief Investment Officer Russ Mold said, “Markets hate uncertainty, and that is precisely what we have now.

“No one knows how much of a problem the new variant is going to cause, so it seems plausible that we will see increased volatility in the markets until there is adequate data to better understand the lay of the land. “

The European Union is already preparing for the possibility that vaccines need to be changed.

European Medicines Agency (EMA) Executive Director Emer Cooke said: “If there was a need to change existing vaccines, we might be able to approve them within three to four months. “

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Meanwhile, when asked about the prospect of developing new vaccines, Sage member Professor Paul Moss told Sky News: “Well, as you know the companies have already started – the gene has been cloned, but usually talks about 100 days.

“We have learned so much in the last 18 months – no one thought we would get a vaccine in the year the pandemic started, and we have – we have had several. “

It comes as the head of the UK’s Health Security Agency has urged people not to socialize if they don’t need to.

Dr Jenny Harries told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that although our ‘vaccines appear to be effective, but we are finding that the variant is more highly transmissible, having low intensity infection, but in a very large number of the population, (she) could still have a significant impact on our hospitals. “

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She added, “If we all decrease our social contact a bit, it actually helps keep the variant at bay. “

Some 14 cases of the variant have so far been identified across the UK, although experts expect the number to increase in the coming days.

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