Moderna CEO’s comments jolt markets

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Markets fell on Tuesday over comments from the Moderna CEO that existing vaccines may be less effective against the Omicron variant.

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The chief executive of drugmaker Moderna sounded new alarm bells in financial markets on Tuesday with a warning that existing COVID-19 vaccines will be less effective than the Omicron version they are against the delta version.

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Major European stock markets fell nearly 1.5 per cent in early trade, Tokyo’s Nikkei index closed down 1.6 per cent, crude futures fell more than 3 per cent, and the Australian dollar hit a one-year low as comments by Stefan Bansel raised fears that vaccine resistance could be prolonged. Epidemic.

“There is no world, I think, where [the effectiveness] Same level… we had with Delta,” Bansel told the Financial Times.

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“I think it’s going to be a physical drop. I just don’t know how much because we need to wait for the data. But the scientists I’ve talked to are like ‘It’s not going to be good’, Bansal said.

However, Emir Cook, executive director of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), told the European Parliament that even if the new version becomes more widespread, existing vaccines will continue to provide protection.

Moderna did not respond to a request for comment from Reuters news agency, or when it expects to have data on the effectiveness of its vaccine on Omicron, which the World Health Organization (WHO) says is at very high risk of infection. Is.

Vaccine for new version

Bansal had earlier told broadcaster CNBC that the vaccine designed for the new version could take months to start shipping.

The WHO and scientists have also said it could take weeks to understand whether omicrons are likely to cause severe disease or evade protection against immunity induced by vaccines.

Cook said lab tests for “cross neutralization” would take about two weeks. He added that if the COVID-19 vaccines need to be changed, new ones can be approved within three or four months.

“Vaccination will still keep you out of the hospital,” said John Varys, director of the Penn Institute for Immunology in Philadelphia.

Moderna and fellow drugmakers BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson are working on vaccines that specifically target Omicron if current shots are not effective against it. Moderna is also testing an overdose of its existing boosters.

Uncertainty about the new version has triggered global alarm, with border closures casting a shadow on a nascent economic recovery from a two-year-old pandemic.

News of its emergence wiped out nearly $2 trillion in global stocks on Friday, but some calmness had returned on Monday.

“Information on the Omicron variant is sketchy, how harsh its symptoms will be and how easily it can spread is also unknown, as is the effectiveness of current vaccines,” said Calvin Wong, an analyst at CMC Markets (Singapore) Pte. “I expect more downside risks for the next few weeks until there is more clarity on the Omicron strain.”

Vaccine skepticism overshadowed positive figures from China, which showed an improvement in factory sentiment in November as the impact of power shortages eased and inflationary pressure eased. Hang Seng’s China stock gauge closed at its lowest level since May 2016.

Elsewhere, emerging market stocks fell for a third day, with the benchmark index hitting a one-year low. Risk aversion affected the cryptocurrency as well, with Bitcoin falling to $56,000.

border control

First detected in southern Africa a week ago, omicron has spread to more than a dozen countries, prompting many to tighten border controls in an effort to prevent a repeat of last year’s strict lockdowns and sharp economic slowdown.

Global restrictions on travelers from southern Africa, where the virus was first identified, have exposed the disparity of vaccine distribution, which could provide more opportunities for the virus to mutate.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “The people of Africa cannot be blamed for the unethically low levels of vaccination available in Africa – and they need to identify and share important science and health information with the world.” should not be punished.”

Passenger liner Europa was docking in Cape Town on Tuesday, marking the official start of the first cruise ship season in South Africa’s top tourist hub since the pandemic.

After Omicron’s discovery while at sea, many travelers were expected to go straight home.

India, home of the world’s largest vaccine maker, has approved the supply of COVID-19 vaccines to several African countries and said it is ready to send more “rapidly”. China has also promised a billion doses to the continent.

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