Are current COVID vaccines for Omicron? The entire world seems to be grappling with this question as reports emerged last week about a new variant of the coronavirus, with multiple new mutations. The new coronavirus variant has already spread to 13 countries outside of Botswana, where it was found first, including South Africa, United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Israel, Canada, Australia etc. Many countries like India have swiftly issued travel restrictions for passengers from high-risk nations.
However, as it was with the previous variants, the only way to beat this pandemic, even today, is to ramp up vaccination- nothing has changed on that front. But with multiple mutations and high immune escape potential, many are worried about the efficacy of the current lot of vaccines available for coronavirus.
Here is what various manufacturers have said about omicron and whether or not their current vaccine will be effective against it:
According to the Health Ministry, India has administered over 123 crore vaccine doses so far. Of these 1,09,90, 44, 198 doses have been of Covishield- a vaccine manufactured by British Swedish company AstraZeneca in collaboration with the Serum Institute of India (based on data available of COWIN today).
The company said that it is testing its current vaccine while developing another one to defend against the new coronavirus variant. Additionally, it is also testing the effectiveness of its monoclonal antibody treatment for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.
The manufacturer of Covaxin told Reuters that while the vaccine was developed against the original Wuhan virus, it has shown that it can work against other variants, including the Delta variant. “We continue to research on new variants.”
The US-German collaborators for COVID vaccine have announced that they will be ready to adapt a new vaccine “within six weeks and ship initial batches within 100 days.” The company suspects that tackling the new strain would call for tweaking the original vaccine.
As per BioNTech, the company is expecting data from the laboratory tests in about two weeks. “These data will provide more information about whether B.1.1.529 could be an escape variant that may require an adjustment of our vaccine.”
Moderna CEO sparked global panic yesterday when he said that the world might need a new vaccine to fight the omicron variant. The pharma company said in a statement that it could have a tweaked version of its shot ready early next year if necessary. In the case of the delta and beta variants, Moderna needed “60-90 days” to advance new candidates to clinical testing, it said in a release.
Whether or not the current vaccine is effective against the new variant is something that the vaccine manufacturer will find out in the next couple of weeks.
Johnson & Johnson
The only vaccine manufacturer confident about their efficacy against the new variant is J&J. The company said that it remained confident in the robust humoral and cell-mediated immune responses elicited by their COVID-19 vaccine, demonstrated by the durability and breadth of protection against variants to date.
However, the global head of Janssen R&D, Mathai Mammen, also added, “In parallel, we have begun to work to design and develop a new vaccine against omicron and will rapidly progress it into clinical studies if needed.”