Current vaccines less effective against Omicron, says boss of Moderna

Stéphane Bancel said the high number of Omicron mutations on the spike protein, which the virus uses to infect human cells, and the rapid spread of the variant in South Africa suggested that the current crop of vaccines may need to be modified next year.  

Stéphane Bancel says the current crop of vaccines may need to be modified next year

The boss of Moderna has predicted that existing vaccines will be much less effective at tackling Omicron than earlier strains of the coronavirus.

Stéphane Bancel said the high number of Omicron mutations on the spike protein, which the virus uses to infect human cells, and the rapid spread of the variant in South Africa suggested that the current crop of vaccines may need to be modified next year.  

“There is no world, I think, where [the effectiveness] is the same level… we had with Delta [variant],” Bancel told the Financial Times newspaper at the company’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “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 suggested that companies would struggle between targeting Omicron and the existing COVID variants and warned it would be risky to shift Moderna’s production capacity to an Omicron-specific jab.

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Bancel said while it would take two weeks to get data on how the existing vaccines perform against the new variant – and whether it causes severe disease – it would take several months to tweak the current vaccines to tackle Omicron.

“There is no world, I think, where [the effectiveness] is the same level … we had with Delta,” Bancel told the FT.

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