Several countries have reported cases of the South African COVID-19 variant Omicron. To prevent its widespread, manufacturers have been speeding up operations to release new COVID-19 vaccines to fight against the said variant.
For what it's worth, the World Health Organization considers Omicron as a variant of concern.
COVID-19 South African Variant Omicron
For those who do not know what Omicron is, President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci stated in "Meet the Press" that the Omicron mutation clearly implies that it is easily transferred. Aside from this, it might also bypass antibody shields earned from prior infections or even from COVID-19 vaccines, per USA Today.
"It's not necessarily that that's going to happen, but it's a strong indication that we really need to be prepared for that," Fauci furthered on the interview.
Moreover, the director of the National Institute of Health Francis Collins added that figuring out if antibodies from immunizations or past infections are effective against Omicron will take two to three weeks.
"We expect that most likely the current vaccines will be sufficient to provide protection and especially the boosters will give that additional layer of protection," Collins added.
With that being stated, Fauci and Collins both agreed that the alarming rise of Omicron is another reason for Americans to be vaccinated and have booster injections.
In addition, Omicron has been classified as a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization. This designation is given for the most dangerous coronavirus strains. Delta was the last variant to obtain this label.
It is unclear if COVID-19 vaccines available on the market will protect against the variation, but vaccine manufacturers have already started exploring options.
COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker for Omicron
Moderna Will Release Vaccines by Early 2022
By early 2022, Moderna expects to deploy an upgraded COVID-19 vaccine to combat the new Omicron strain, per Business Insider.
In addition to this, chief medical officer of Moderna Paul Burton stated on BBC's "Andrew Marr Show" that "we should know about the ability of the current vaccine to provide protection in the next couple of weeks."
"If we have to make a brand-new vaccine, I think that's going to be early 2022 before that's really going to be available in large quantities," Burton furthered, via Time Magazine.
Moreover, Moderna stated in a press release that they are now testing the existing COVID-19 vaccine against the COVID-19 South African variant.
"The mutations in the Omicron variant are concerning and for several days, we have been moving as fast as possible to execute our strategy to address this variant," Chief Executive Officer of Moderna Stephane Bancel furthered on the statement.
With regards to the said strategies, it includes the following:
- They have conducted clinical trials in healthy individuals with a higher dose booster.
- Moderna is currently studying two multi-valent booster candidates. The candidates were designed to anticipate mutations like those that have emerged in the Omicron variant.
- The company is also rapidly advancing an Omicron-specific booster candidate.
Pfizer Will Distribute Upgraded COVID-19 Vaccine Within 100 Days
In a separate Business Insider report, if the Omicron variant is proven to be resistant to the present vaccination, Pfizer stated that they will be able to develop and distribute an upgraded version of their COVID-19 vaccine within 100 days.
Furthermore, a Pfizer representative told Reuters that the company expects to know, within two weeks, if the variant is resistant to its existing vaccine.
"We expect more data from the laboratory tests in two weeks at the latest. These data will provide more information about whether B.1.1.529 could be an escape variant that may require an adjustment of our vaccine if the variant spreads globally," the representative furthered
Pfizer and BioNTech have previously developed versions of their existing COVID-19 vaccine, which is based on the original virus discovered in the Chinese city of Wuhan, per Reuters.
The said vaccine development aims to address the previous Alpha and Delta strains, and clinical studies are currently underway.
Those initiatives do not intend to commercialize, rather, these COVID-19 vaccines are being carried out to speed up any future vaccination relaunch.
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