Vaccines less effective against omicron variant: Moderna CEO
Drugmaker Moderna's CEO set off fresh alarm bells in financial markets on Tuesday after he warned that Covid-19 vaccines were unlikely to be as effective against the Omicron variant as they have been against the Delta version.
Crude oil futures shed more than a dollar, the Australian currency hit a year low, and Nikkei gave up gains as Stéphane Bancel's comments spurred fears that vaccine resistance could lead to more sickness and hospitalisations, prolonging the pandemic.
"There is no world, I think, where (the effectiveness) is the same level . . . we had with Delta," Moderna CEO Bancel told the Financial Times in an interview.
"I think it's going to be a material drop. I just don't know how much because we need to wait for the data. But all the scientists I've talked to . . . are like 'this is not going to be good'," Bancel said.
Moderna did not reply to a Reuters' request for comment on the interview and on when it expects to have data on the effectiveness of its vaccine against Omicron, which the World Health Organization (WHO) says carries a "very high" risk of infection surges.
Bancel had earlier said on CNBC that there should be more clarity on the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines against Omicron in about two weeks, and that it could take months to begin shipping a vaccine that work against the new variant.
The WHO and scientists have also said it could take days to several weeks to understand the level of severity of the variant and its potential to escape protection against immunity induced by vaccines.
"Vaccination will likely still keep you out of the hospital," said John Wherry, director of the Penn Institute for Immunology in Philadelphia.
The uncertainty about the new variant has triggered global alarm, with border closures casting a shadow over a nascent economic recovery from a two-year pandemic.
News of its emergence wiped roughly $2 trillion off the value of global stocks on Friday, but some calm was restored this week as investors waited for more data on Omicron.
Remarks by President Joe Biden that the United States would not reinstate lockdowns had also helped soothe markets before comments from the Moderna CEO spooked investors.
Biden has called for wider vaccination, while the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged everyone aged 18 years and older to get a booster shot. Britain too has expanded its Covid-19 booster programme amid Omicron fears.
First reported on Nov. 24 from South Africa, Omicron has since spread to over a dozen countries. Japan, the world's third-largest economy, has confirmed its first case.
HONG KONG EXPANDS CURBS
Countries around the world have moved quickly to tighten border controls to prevent a recurrence of last year's strict lockdowns and steep economic downturns.
Hong Kong has expanded a ban on entry for non-residents from several countries. It said non-residents from Angola, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zambia would not be allowed to enter as of Nov. 30.
Additionally, it said non-residents who have been to Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Israel and Italy in the past 21 days would not be allowed to enter the city from Dec. 2.
The global financial hub, among the last places pursuing a zero-Covid strategy, has already banned non-residents arriving from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
In Australia, five travellers tested positive for Omicron.
Singapore's health ministry said two travellers from Johannesburg who tested positive for the variant in Sydney had transited through its Changi airport.
Australian authorities have also identified a sixth traveller who was most likely infected with the variant and had spent time in the community.
Canberra delayed on Monday the reopening of the nation's borders for international students and skilled migrants, less than 36 hours before they were due to be allowed back in.
"We're doing this out of an abundance of caution but our overwhelming view is that whilst (Omicron) is an emerging variant, it is a manageable variant," Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said.
The global curbs on travellers from southern Africa also raised concerns about vaccine inequality.
"The people of Africa cannot be blamed for the immorally low level of vaccinations available in Africa – and they should not be penalized for identifying and sharing crucial science and health information with the world," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.
India, home to the world's largest vaccine maker, has approved supplies of Covid-19 vaccines to many African countries and said it stands ready to "expeditiously" send more. China too has pledged 1 billion doses to the continent.
Onlookers urged police officers to charge into the Texas elementary school where a gunman's rampage killed 19 children and two teachers, witnesses said Wednesday, as investigators worked to track the massacre that lasted upwards of 40 minutes and ended when Ramos was killed by a Border Patrol team. “Let's just rush in because the cops aren't doing anything like they are supposed to,” he said. “More could have been done.”
The cases of monkeypox are surging globally with the World Health Organization on Wednesday confirming 131 confirmed and 106 suspected cases of the virus in 19 countries. Here are the latest updates Spain reported 59 new cases of the monkeypox on Wednesday and the total number of suspected cases nationwide stands at 171. Finland on Wednesday identified its first “highly likely” case of the monkeypox, according to the Helsinki hospital district.
The tragedy occurred at Mame Abdou Aziz Sy Dabakh Hospital in the transport hub of Tivaouane, and was caused by "a short circuit", according to Senegalese politician Diop Sy.
The army was called in by the Shehbaz Sharif government in the early hours on Thursday to protect the Red Zone of Islamabad as former prime minister and PTI chief Imran Khan entered the capital with Imran Khan's' Azadi march. The government said Army has been deployed to protect important buildings like Supreme Court, Parliament House, Prime Minister House, Presidency, Pakistan Secretariat and Diplomatic Enclaves. Here are the top 10 updates on the Islamabad crisis: 1.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and US leader Joe Biden are set to meet next month after Bolsonaro accepted an invitation to the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, two sources told Reuters on Wednesday. Bolsonaro's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the news, which was first reported by the O Globo newspaper. The White House and the US State Department did not immediately respond to questions on the matter.