Moderna CEO predicts vaccines will be less effective against Omicron variant

The head of drugmaker Moderna said Covid-19 vaccines are unlikely to be as effective against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus as they have been against the Delta variant.

There is no world, I think, where (the effectiveness) is the same level.. we had with Delta,” Moderna Chief Executive Stéphane 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’.”

Mr Bancel also told CNBC in an interview that it could take months to begin shipping such a vaccine.

He said there should be more clarity about the effectiveness of existing Covid-19 vaccines against the variant 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.

BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are working on vaccines that specifically target Omicron in case their existing shots are not effective against the new coronavirus variant, the companies said yesterday.

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

Meanwhile, Special Envoy on Covid-19 to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr David Nabarro said it is more important to vaccinate people in developing countries right now than to provide boosters to everyone in Ireland.

Dr Nabarro also said vaccinating people in developing countries will save more lives in the long-run, as it will reduce the risk of new Covid-19 variants developing.

“A new variant can come from anywhere and the best way to reduce the risk of these variants is to spread the vaccine widely,” he told RTÉ News.

Dr Nabarro said he understands why countries – including Ireland – are keen to boost their populations but argued more lives can be saved by sharing vaccines with poorer nations.

“Which is better, giving everybody a boost now or perhaps waiting a couple of months until we’ve managed to get the basic supplies out for the health workers and the older people in poor countries and then boosting Ireland, UK, Europe in a couple of months’ time?

“Quite honestly, I believe that many, many more lives will be saved if we can just delay a bit in the advanced nations, so that the developing countries can catch-up. That’s what best for the whole world,” he added.

Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland

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