Omicron: Are current vaccines effective against the new COVID variant?

Moderna's CEO has indicated that present-day vaccines may not be effective against the new Omicron variant.

Up until now, all the vaccines that were created to fight against the coronavirus seemed to protect individuals from different existing mutations—including the deadly Delta variant. However, the rapid rise of a new and reportedly ‘more infectious’ varianthas once again raised the question of whether or not current vaccines will still be effective.

Drop in vaccine efficacy

Speaking about the topic on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Moderna’s CEO Stephane Bane didn’t seem as hopeful. He believes that there is a high possibility that each and every vaccine will be less effective against Omicron. He said:

Given the large level of mutation it is highly possible that the efficacy of the vaccines, all of them, is going down.

Not only does this variant have the Delta and Beta mutations, it has up to 32 other mutations on the spike protein. To compare, Delta only has 10 unique mutations, while Beta has six. Because of its unique and complex structure, Bane mentioned that only further studies will be able to answer the pressing questions on vaccine efficacy.

Effort to contain the variant

Despite the grim news of a super mutation, this time around the efforts to contain the new variant have also been faster and stronger. Pfizer’s CEO, Albert Bourla, announced that the company was already working on an Omicron-specific vaccine. He said:

Friday we made our first DNA template which is the first part of the development process of a new vaccine.
We would be able to have a vaccine in less than 100 days.

Similarly, Moderna has also been working on their own Omicron booster shot and they have been testing a stronger generic booster vaccine that could provide higher levels of protection. Moreover, they’re developing two other booster doses that have been designed in the case that a vaccine resistant variant should emerge.

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