Moderna chief says existing vaccines are less effective against Omicron

The president of US drugmaker Moderna said in an interview published in the Financial Times Tuesday that current COVID-19 vaccines will be less effective against the Omicron variant and it will take several months to develop a new vaccine.

Stefan Bansel believes there will be a “significant decrease” in the effectiveness of vaccines. “All the scholars I have spoken to (…) say this will not do that,” he said.

He told the newspaper that data on the effectiveness of current vaccines will be available in the next two weeks.

Bancel’s warning comes as G7 health ministers meet urgently to discuss this new alternative that is spreading across the planet and the new countries have decided to close their borders again.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that this new type of coronavirus presents a “very high risk” at a global level.

Bancel explained that researchers are concerned that 32 of the 50 mutations in the Omicron variant are in the spike protein, which is key to the virus entering the body.

According to him, the current vaccine would not have “the same level of efficacy as the one we had against the Delta variant”.

Moderna has already announced its intention to develop a specific booster dose for this new alternative, as did the American laboratory Pfizer.

The head of the lab estimated that his company could supply between 2 and 3 billion doses in 2022, but it would be risky to direct all production toward a vaccine for the Omicron variant while other virus strains are still circulating.

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