Vaccine makers split over protection against Omicron variant – .

Vaccine makers split over protection against Omicron variant – .

Two of the three largest western vaccine makers have tried to allay fears over a new strain of coronavirus, with the University of Oxford and BioNTech predicting that existing jabs will continue to prevent serious illness.

Markets fell earlier on Tuesday after the chief executive of Moderna, the third largest vaccine maker, told the Financial Times that existing vaccines were likely much less effective against the Omicron variant and that it would take months to manufacture. Large-scale replacement jabs.

“There are no people, I think, where [the effectiveness] is of the same level. . . we had with [the] Delta [variant] ”Said Stéphane Bancel in an interview at Moderna headquarters in 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’.

On Tuesday, Ugur Sahin, the boss of BioNTech, which is making a leading Covid-19 vaccine with Pfizer, adopted a more optimistic tone.

“We believe that fully vaccinated individuals will always have a high level of protection against serious illnesses caused by Omicron,” Sahin said, citing current knowledge about the mechanism of the vaccine and previous examples of other variants. “We anticipate that the booster vaccination will further increase protection. . . and potentially provide protection against disease of any severity.

BioNTech and Pfizer were ready to adapt the vaccine within six weeks and ship the first batches within 100 days if necessary, he said. His remarks were first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Separately, Oxford, which is making another coronavirus vaccine with AstraZeneca, said in a statement that there was “no evidence so far” that existing vaccines would not continue to provide protection against Omicron, as they did for the previous worrying variants.

“We will carefully assess the implications of the emergence of [Omicron] for vaccine immunity, ”the university said. “Despite the emergence of new variants over the past year, vaccines have continued to provide very high levels of protection against serious disease and there is so far no evidence that Omicron is any different. “

Oxford added that it had the “necessary tools and processes in place for the rapid development of an updated Covid-19 vaccine should it become necessary.”

In a briefing Tuesday, the Biden administration urged Americans to receive booster shots in anticipation of the confirmation of Omicron cases in the United States.

Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said: “We know that vaccination helps protect you, your loved ones and your community against Covid-19. And we fully anticipate that this protection will, at least in part, be beneficial against Omicron. “

There is still a lack of reliable data on the efficacy of the vaccine against Omicron and predictions by the pharmaceutical industry have ignored the chief scientist of the World Health Organization, Soumya Swaminathan.

“We believe it is premature to draw conclusions about the efficacy of vaccines against Omicron,” she told the FT. “WHO has brought together all of our expert groups and scientists are working on experiments to test the neutralizing ability of stored sera from recovered patients or from individuals vaccinated against the new variant. It will take a few weeks.

Swaminathan said “we have to be patient”, pending “full clinical efficacy studies to really understand whether this variant is able to overcome the immunity generated by existing vaccines.”

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

He 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.

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

The Moderna chief’s forecast rocked investors on Tuesday morning, with stocks and crude prices falling. Comments by U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell suggesting the central bank could curb stimulus in a crisis faster than previously thought, subsequently sparked strong sales on Wall Street.

Additional reporting by Hannah Kuchler in London, Erika Solomon in Berlin, Hudson Lockett in Hong Kong and Kiran Stacey in Washington


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