COVID-19: New vaccines “ready in 100 days” if Omicron variant is resistant to current jabs, according to Pfizer

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COVID-19: New vaccines “ready in 100 days” if Omicron variant is resistant to current jabs, according to Pfizer


Vaccine makers have expressed confidence that they will be able to quickly adjust their jabs if the Omicron variant spreads.

The new strain – formerly known as B.1.1.529 – has “disturbing” mutations, and early evidence suggests that it carries an increased risk of re-infection.

There are also concerns that the variant is no longer resistant to vaccines that have now been deployed to billions of people around the world.

Image:
Omicron spike protein with new mutations seen in red, blue, gold and black. Pic: University of Glasgow Virus Research Center

If so, Pfizer and BioNTech expect to “be able to develop and produce a bespoke vaccine against this variant in approximately 100 days, subject to regulatory approval.”

Moderna said it has put forward a “comprehensive strategy to anticipate new worrisome variants” since early 2021 – including three levels of response if the immunity offered by its jabs wanes.

Novavax added that it had already started to create a COVID-19[feminine[feminine vaccine based on the known genetic sequence of B.1.1.529 “and it will be ready to begin testing and manufacture in the coming weeks”.

Yesterday, the World Health Organization designated B.1.1.529 as a “variant of concern”, meaning that it has now officially been given the name Omicron, a letter of the Greek alphabet.

The strain was first detected in South Africa and a number of countries – including the UK, Australia and the US – are now temporarily restricting travel to a number of European countries.

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Although no infection linked to the Omicron variant has been detected in the UK or the US so far, there has been one case in Belgium involving an unvaccinated person who had traveled abroad.

Salim Abdool Karim, one of South Africa’s top epidemiologists, told Sky News he “would expect it to be in the UK” now.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has warned that there is a “possibility that it may have a different impact on individuals” who get coronavirus.

However, he stressed that the UK remains in a “strong position” due to the high vaccination rate – adding that Omicron’s presence means getting a booster is even more important now.

British scientists first became aware of the new strain on November 23 after samples were uploaded to a website tracking COVID variants in South Africa, Hong Kong, and then Botswana. A total of 59 samples have been uploaded so far.

Amid concerns, flights to the UK from South Africa and five other southern African countries – Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe – have been suspended until 4 Sunday morning hours.

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“Huge international concern” regarding the variant

These nations have now been added to the red list, and as of Sunday, UK nationals returning from these destinations will be required to self-quarantine in government-approved hotels for 10 days.

Mr Javid confirmed the government is still following Plan A to deal with COVID-19 this fall and winter, but warned “if we have to go any further, we will.”

England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said his “biggest worry” was whether the public would accept further restrictions if they were needed.

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