The manufacturers of America’s most used COVID-19 vaccines insist they have plans in place to quickly adapt to potential challenges presented by the new omicron variant.
Both Pfizer and vaccine partner BioNTech said that, if necessary, they expect to be able to ship a new vaccine tailored to the highly contagious variant, first detected in South Africa, in about 100 days.
BioNTech added Friday it expects to review more data on omicron within two weeks to help decide whether the two jab-vaccine should be reworked.
The other two-shot vaccine maker, Moderna, said it is working to advance a booster candidate for its jab that is tailored to the new variant. ‘
The company said it is testing a higher dose of its existing booster and studying other booster candidates designed to protect against multiple variants.
“A booster dose of an authorized vaccine represents the only currently available strategy for boosting waning immunity,” Moderna said in the statement.
Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group which developed the AstraZeneca vaccine used overseas, expressed cautious optimism that existing vaccines could be effective at preventing serious disease from the omicron variant.
He said most mutations appear to be in similar regions as those in other variants.
“That tells you that despite those mutations existing in other variants the vaccines have continued to prevent serious disease as we’ve moved through alpha, beta, gamma and delta,” he told BBC radio. “At least from a speculative point of view we have some optimism that the vaccine should still work against a new variant for serious disease, but really we need to wait several weeks to have that confirmed.”
He added that it is “extremely unlikely that a reboot of a pandemic in a vaccinated population like we saw last year is going to happen.”
With Post wire services