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Moderna leader says vaccine likely less effective against Omicron

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Moderna is likely not effective against Omicron. (via Pixabay)

The head of American vaccine maker Moderna said in an interview with Financial Times that their vaccine may not be strongly effective against the new Omicron variant. Stephane Bancel said in an interview published yesterday that it will take months to develop a new version of the vaccine that is tested and confirmed to be effective against the new strain of Covid-19 that is causing a global panic.

Omicron is still so new that solid data is not yet available, so there is some hope that the new variant won’t be as vaccine resistant, severe, or transmissible as many fear, but Moderna’s head said that scientists he’s been in contact with are not holding their breath and expecting good news about it.

While the World Health Organisation had earlier discouraged rash banning of flights and countries, they most recently stated that the Omicron variant is very high risk. G7 health ministers have also convened emergency meetings to discuss the new variant and how best to move forward and respond to the outbreak now found in countries around the world, with Singapore recently joining the list.

Many countries have grounded flights and banned travel from certain countries, while some such as Japan have closed their borders altogether. Politicians have frequently tried to strike a calming tone, with US President Joe Biden saying Monday that Omicron is “not cause for a panic,” and Thailand’s Public Health Ministry assuring they are monitoring the variant and people should continue to observe existing disease prevention measures.

But the Moderna head spoke more frankly, forecasting a “material drop” in effectiveness for their vaccine against the Omicron variant. He explained that an alarming facet of the new variant is that of the 50 mutations identified, 32 of them are on the spike protein, which is what vaccines target to effectively strengthen immune systems against Covid-19, meaning that the mutations could damage and weaken the efficacy of the vaccine.

He announced that Moderna – like Pfizer recently announced – is already working on an updated vaccine to target Omicron, but warns that it could be a mistake to shift all production to that vaccine since other strains like the Delta variant are still predominant in the world.

The Moderna leader did predict that the company is capable of producing between 2 and 3 billion vaccines in 2022.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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    Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10 years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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