From Pfizer to Moderna: What vaccine makers are saying about omicron jabs

As omicron cases are being reported throughout the world, vaccine makers have said they are working on jabs that could tackle the new strain.
The Omicron variant is slowly emerging in countries around the world.(AFP Photo)
The Omicron variant is slowly emerging in countries around the world.(AFP Photo)
Published on Nov 30, 2021 06:06 AM IST
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By | Written by Meenakshi Ray, New Delhi

Omicron poses a "very high" risk globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned even as the new variant of the coronavirus has raised concerns around the world, with countries implementing travel bans and researchers racing to study whether it will evade vaccines. 

As omicron cases are being reported throughout the world, vaccine makers have said they are working on jabs that could tackle the new strain.

Pfizer

The US drugmaker's CEO Albert Bourla has said Pfizer has already started working on a version of its Covid-19 vaccine specifically targeting the new Omicron variant in case the current inoculation is not effective against the latest strain.

Bourla told CNBC that his company on Friday began testing the current vaccine against the Omicron variant, which was first reported in South Africa and has reignited fears of a global wave of Covid-19 infections.

Also read | US CDC says all adults should get Covid-19 booster shots

"I don't think the result will be the vaccines don't protect," Bourla said. But the testing could show that existing shots "protect less," which would mean "that we need to create a new vaccine," Bourla said.

Bourla said he was also "very confident" that Pfizer's recently unveiled antiviral pill would work as a treatment for infections caused by the mutations, including Omicron.

Moderna

Moderna Inc, another leading Covid-19 vaccine maker, has said it was developing a booster shot against the new variant.

Also read | No fatalities linked to new variant but WHO cautious

Moderna chief medical officer Paul Burton said on Sunday on the BBC’s “Andrew Marr Show” that vaccinated people should still be protected, depending on how long ago they got their shots, and for now the best advice is to take one of the current Covid vaccines.

Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson also said Monday that it is "pursuing an Omicron-specific variant vaccine and will progress it as needed."

AstraZeneca

The Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company has said it is examining the impact of omicron on its vaccine and its antibody cocktail and that it was hopeful its combination drug would retain efficacy.

"As with any new emerging variants, we are looking into B.1.1.529 to understand more about it and the impact on the vaccine," AstraZeneca said in a statement.

Also read | Covid clusters in Maharashtra, Karnataka under watch for new variant

AstraZeneca said that it had developed a vaccine platform to respond quickly to new variants with Oxford University, where the vaccine was created.

"We are also testing our long-acting antibody combination AZD7442 against this new variant and are hopeful AZD7442 will retain efficacy since it comprises two potent antibodies with different and complementary activities against the virus," it said.

Sputnik V

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which backs Covid-19 vaccine Sputnik V's development by the state-run Gamaleya Center, the jab is effective against omicron but they were also developing an adapted booster.

RDIF said that the centre "has already begun developing the new version of Sputnik vaccine adapted to Omicron." "In an unlikely case such modification is needed, the new Sputnik Omicron version can be ready for mass-scale production in 45 days," RDIF said in a statement.

Also read | ‘Be alert to threat of Omicron’: PM Modi warns amid rising concerns

"Several hundred million Sputnik Omicron boosters can be provided to international markets already by February 20, 2022, with over 3 billion doses available in 2022."

Novavax

Novavax Inc also said it has started working on a version of its Covid-19 vaccine to target the variant detected in South Africa. The vaccine developer said it would have the shot ready for testing and manufacturing in the next few weeks.

Also read | Omicron probably indicates Covid is now endemic: 3 things experts say

Novavax said it has started developing a spike protein specifically based on the known genetic sequence of the variant, B.1.1.529. "The initial work will take a few weeks," a company spokesperson said on Friday.

Inovio

Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc said it had begun testing its vaccine candidate, INO-4800, to evaluate its effectiveness against the new variant. The company expects the testing to take about two weeks.

Inovio also said it was simultaneously designing a new vaccine candidate that specifically targeted omicron.

"Best case scenario, INO-4800 ... will be completely resilient against omicron, but if that's not the case then we will have a newly designed vaccine ready to go if need be," said Kate Broderick, senior vice president of Inovio's R&D division.

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