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COVID-19 vaccine makers start work on Omicron-tailored shots

COVID-19 vaccine makers start work on Omicron-tailored shots

File photo of a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Greece on Nov 16, 2021. (Photo: Reuters/Alexandros Avramidis)

BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are working on COVID-19 vaccines that specifically target Omicron in case their existing shots are not effective against the new coronavirus variant, the companies said on Monday (Nov 29).

The variant's emergence has triggered a strong global response as countries worried that it could spread fast even in vaccinated populations impose travel curbs and other restrictions.

BioNTech said it had started work on a vaccine tailored to Omicron, along with partner Pfizer.

Meanwhile, Moderna said it could take months to begin shipping such a vaccine, chief executive officer Stéphane Bancel told CNBC.

Bancel said the effectiveness of existing COVID-19 vaccines against the variant was currently not known, adding there should be more clarity in about two weeks.

Johnson & Johnson is also evaluating the effectiveness of its COVID-19 vaccine against Omicron, while also pursuing a vaccine specific to the variant.

"We have begun work to design and develop a new vaccine against Omicron and will rapidly progress it into clinical studies if needed," said Mathai Mammen, global head of research for J&J's pharmaceuticals unit.

A top South African infectious disease expert said Omicron appears to be more transmissible than previous variants, including to people with immunity from vaccination or prior infection.

Russia said on Monday its vaccine, developed by the Gamaleya Institute, would likely work against Omicron and that it would be ready to produce hundreds of millions of booster shots if not.

"Gamaleya Institute believes Sputnik V and Light will neutralise Omicron as they have highest efficacy versus other mutations," Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which markets the vaccine overseas, said via the official Sputnik V Twitter account.

"In unlikely case a modification is needed, we will provide several hundred million of Sputnik Omicron boosters by Feb 20, 2022," Dmitriev said.

Earlier, the Kremlin said more data was needed before conclusions could be drawn about the new variant.

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Source: Reuters/aj

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