While vaccines against the strain can be developed quickly, they need to be tested over three to six months to prove that they can provide immunity against the variant, Dr Leong Hoe Nam of Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital said on Wednesday.
“But frankly, omicron will dominate and overwhelm the whole world in three to six months,” he told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia”.
Delta, the strain that currently accounts for 99% of Covid infections, began to become more common in the Indian state of Maharashtra in March 2021 and was dominant globally in July, according to Reuters.
Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said on Monday it would take months to develop and ship a vaccine that specifically targets the omicron variant.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla also said the snaps could be ready in under 100 days, or just over three months.
“Good idea, but honestly it’s impractical,” Leong said of a vaccine that specifically targets omicron. “We will not be able to rush the vaccines on time and by the time the vaccines arrive virtually everyone will be infected with omicron given this high infectivity and transmissibility. “
“The profile of the mutations strongly suggests that they will have an advantage in terms of transmissibility and that they could elude the immune protection that you would get,” US infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci said on Sunday to ” Meet the Press ”from NBC.
Protection against current vaccines
Our bodies generate “a multitude of different antibodies” in response to vaccines, said Dr Syra Madad, member of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
“I think our current vaccines will hold up to some extent with this new variant,” she told CNBC’s “Capital Connection” Wednesday, noting that the vaccines were able to provide protection against delta.
“It may reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine by a few notches, but that remains to be seen,” she said. Current vaccines, as well as boosters, should still offer a “good level of protection,” she added.
Leong agreed that a three-dose vaccination schedule would likely protect against serious illness, but pointed out that many countries still have low vaccination rates.
He said omicron “is threatening the whole world” with a sudden increase in the number of cases, and health systems could be overwhelmed, even if only 1% or 2% of cases end up in hospitals.
For now, however, Leong has said we should continue to roll out vaccinations, keep our distance, wear masks and not be overly worried.
Madad echoed the same sentiment. “We continue to implement the Covid-19 prevention measures on an ongoing basis,” she said. “Layering it is really the best approach here. “
– CNBC’s Saheli Roy Choudhury, Spencer Kimball and Yen Nee Lee contributed to this report.