Moderna chief predicts existing vaccines will struggle with Omicron – .

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Moderna chief predicts existing vaccines will struggle with Omicron – .


Moderna chief executive predicted that existing vaccines would be much less effective in combating Omicron than earlier strains of Covid-19 and warned it would be months before pharmaceutical companies could make new variant-specific jabs in large scale.

Stéphane Bancel said the high number of Omicron mutations on the spike protein, which the virus uses to infect human cells, and the rapid spread of the variant in South Africa, suggest that the current crop of vaccines may need be changed next year.

“There are no people, I think, where [the effectiveness] is of the same level. . . we’ve had with Delta, ”Bancel told the Financial Times in an interview at the company’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

He added, “I think it’s going to be a big drop. I don’t know how much because we have to wait for the data. But all the scientists I spoke to. . . are like ‘this is not going to be good’.

The comments from Moderna’s CEO come as other public health experts and politicians have tried to set a more optimistic tone about the ability of existing vaccines to provide protection against Omicron.

On Monday, Scott Gottlieb, director of Pfizer and former commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration, told CNBC: “There is a reasonable degree of confidence in vaccine circles that [with] at least three doses. . . the patient will have fairly good protection against this variant.

Joe Biden, President of the United States, later said that Omicron was “a cause for concern, not a cause of panic,” adding that government medical experts “believed vaccines would continue to offer a degree protection against serious illness ”.

However, Bancel said scientists were concerned because 32 of the 50 mutations in the Omicron variant involve the spike protein, which current vaccines focus on to boost the human body’s immune system to fight Covid-19.

Most experts believed such a highly mutated variant wouldn’t emerge for a year or two, Bancel added.

Moderna and Pfizer have become the vaccine suppliers of choice for most developed countries due to the high efficacy of their vaccines, which are based on messenger RNA (mRNA) technology.

In August, Moderna announced that people vaccinated with two doses of his jab “have retained antibodies for six months, including against variants of concern such as the Delta variant.”

But studies suggest the company’s vaccine is less effective at preventing Delta outbreaks than earlier strains of the virus.

A Stanford University study of a Delta outbreak in a California prison published last month found the company’s jab to be 56.6% effective against the infection. This was significantly below the level of studies conducted before Delta’s emergence, the researchers said.

Moderna and Pfizer are currently working on new vaccines to target the Omicron variant, which the World Health Organization says poses a “very high risk.”

Bancel said data giving an indication of the performance of existing vaccines against the Omicron variant, and whether it causes serious illness, should be available within two weeks.

But he said it would take several months before a vaccine specific to Omicron could be produced on a large scale, and suggested that it might be warranted to give stronger boosters to the elderly or to people with immune systems. is weakened in the meantime.

« [Moderna] and Pfizer can’t get a billion doses next week. The math doesn’t work. But could we get the billion doses out by the summer? Of course, ”said Bancel, who predicted Moderna could produce a total of 2 billion to 3 billion doses in 2022.

But he said it would be risky to shift Moderna’s entire production capacity to a targeted Omicron jab at a time when other variants are still in circulation.

Bancel also denounced critics who accused vaccine makers of not doing enough to support vaccine deployments in developing countries such as South Africa, where only a quarter of the population is fully vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins University.

“It was mainly a political decision of the rich countries. In the United States, we have been told that we have no choice but to donate 60 percent of our production to the United States government. It was not a Moderna decision, it was a decision of the US government, ”he said.

Bancel also said there was a surplus of vaccines destined for Africa and that 70 million Moderna vaccines were in warehouses because Covax – an international body responsible for vaccinating low-income countries – or governments individuals had not taken care of them.

He said: “We are running out of space. This is either because they do not have customs documents, or because they do not have refrigerator space, or because the possibility of obtaining doses in the weapons is a challenge.

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