- Moderna chief Stefan Bunsell warned that vaccines could clash against the Omicron version
- Experts say jabs are likely to be less effective against infection, but still prevent hospitalization
- Scotland today announced a new Omicron case in Lanarkshire and two more cases in the Glasgow area
- It comes as face masks became mandatory again on public transport and in shops across England
COVID vaccine maker Moderna today warned it would take months to develop the Omicron-specific booster Jabo As Scotland detected three more cases of the mutant strain.
Stephen Bansell, chief executive of the Massachusetts-based vaccine maker, said he expected the highly developed COVID version to cause a “material decline” in the effectiveness of existing vaccines, warning that the outcome was “not going to be good”.
He warned that it would take until the summer of 2022 for Moderna to develop a new vaccine and ramp up manufacturing to vaccinate the entire population.
Scientists say it will take two weeks to find out exactly how effective the jabs are against Omicron, which has twice as many mutations on its spike protein as delta. Existing vaccines are expected to be significantly weaker in preventing infection, but it is less clear how this will affect hospitalizations and deaths.
Britain yesterday expanded its current booster rollout to all adults over the age of 18. Even though vaccines are expected to be much weaker than Omicron, it is hoped that boosting everyone’s immunity to a very high level will offer an additional line of defense against an oncoming wave.
Scottish health officials announced three more Omicron cases overnight, bringing the UK total to 14. Laboratories across the country are testing hundreds of possible cases and there are signs that the community is already spreading.
Boris Johnson will hold a Downing Street press conference this afternoon, giving an update on the COVID situation and outlining the measures that will kick in this morning to deal with such measures.
From 4 a.m., face masks were again made mandatory in shops and on public transport in England. People who are in close contact with potential Omicron cases should also self-isolate for ten days, regardless of vaccination status. Double-vaccinated people arriving in the UK are also now required to self-isolate for two days, and only leave their homes if a negative PCR test is received.
But Britain’s public health chiefs have warned people to avoid socializing before Christmas unless you need them to help stop the spread of the virus. There is also a demand to return the masks in restaurants, pubs and bars.
A SAGE scientist said Britain is ‘very well prepared’ to face the second edition. Professor Paul Moss said expanding the booster program would turbo-charge immunity to ‘super-high’ levels to help keep the Omicron variant at bay.
Vaccine makers Moderna and Pfizer are already working on a COVID vaccine that can tackle the Omicron strain if it is a problem for the current crop of vaccines, but they won’t be ready until mid-2022.
There have been 14 confirmed Omicron infections in the UK, as government laboratories investigate hundreds of other possible cases. There are nine infections in Scotland, some of which have no link to foreign travel, suggesting the variant is already circulating in the community. There are five confirmed cases in England and all linked to foreign travel
The Botswana variant has about 50 mutations and more than 30 of them are on the spike protein. The current crop of vaccines triggers the body to recognize a version of the spike protein from earlier versions of the virus. But the mutations can make the spike protein so different that the body’s immune system struggles to recognize and fight it. And three spike mutations (H665Y, N679K, P681H) help it to enter the body’s cells more easily. Meanwhile, it lacks a membrane protein (NSP6) seen in earlier iterations of the virus, which experts think could make it more contagious. and it has two mutations (R203K and G204R) that have been present in all forms of concern and have been associated with infectiousness.
Mr Bansal told financial Times: ‘There is no world, I think, where [the effectiveness] Same level… we had with Delta.
‘I think it’s going to be a physical drop’ [in vaccine effectiveness], I just don’t know how much because we need to wait for data. But the scientists I’ve talked to… are like “it’s not going to be good”.
He said some two to three billion doses could be supplied by his company before the end of next year, but that it was dangerous to move all production to an Omicron-specific shot, while other countries were still grappling with one. Were …