The new potentially more contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus has popped up in many countries, just days after being identified in South Africa, leaving governments around the world scrambling to stop the spread.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), preliminary evidence has suggested that there may be an increased risk of reinfection with Omicron as compared to other variants of concern. Besides, the WHO is working with technical partners to understand the potential impact of this variant on existing COVID-19 vaccines.
Meanwhile, vaccine producers BioNTech and Moderna said it has started working on Omicron-specific vaccine.
Moderna said it could reformulate the vaccine against the Omicron variant by early 2022. “We should know about the ability of the current vaccine to provide protection in the next couple of weeks,” Paul Burton, the chief medical officer of Moderna said on the BBC's "Andrew Marr Show". “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,” he added.
BioNTech, meanwhile, said it had started work on a vaccine tailored to Omicron. The development of an adapted vaccine is part of the company’s standard procedure for new variants, BioNTech, which makes vaccines together with Pfizer, said in a statement. “The first steps of developing a potential new vaccine overlap with the research necessary in order to evaluate whether a new shot will be needed,” it added.