Will existing COVID-19 vaccines work against the Omicron variant? CEOs and scientists weigh in – Community News
Covid-19

Will existing COVID-19 vaccines work against the Omicron variant? CEOs and scientists weigh in

as cases of the Omicron variant Continuing to rise in the US, public health officials have one key question: are the current COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer effective against the new variant?

For now, no one really knows the answer. However, the CEOs of Moderna and Pfizer, as well as scientists at Johnson & Johnson, have all weighed in on the subject. Some say a new vaccine is inevitable because Omicron can mutate in too many different ways; others say they need more data to be sure.

Here’s a recap of what top vaccine makers’ leaders have said about their fight against Omicron.

moderna

Moderna President Dr. Stephen Hoge said there’s a good chance current vaccines won’t hold up very well against the Omicron variant.

“I think there is a real risk that we will see a decline in the effectiveness of the vaccines,” Hoge told ABC News on Sunday. “What I don’t know is how substantial that is.”

Hoge’s comment echoes what company CEO St├ęphane Bancel said last week: There will be “a material decline” in effectiveness against Omicron, he stated.

It would take three months for Moderna to produce a specific vaccine for Omicron, said Moderna’s medical director, Dr. Paul Burton, last week.

Johnson & Johnson

CEO Alex Gorsky has been relatively quiet about Omicron and how the Johnson & Johnson vaccine compares to the new variant.

dr. Mathai Mammen, global head of research and development for the company, said Omicron’s presence demonstrates the need for drug manufacturers to continue testing and monitoring the mutations of COVID-19. J&J is currently testing its vaccine against Omicron, Mammen said.

“At the same time, we have started designing and developing a new vaccine against Omicron and will soon include it in clinical trials if needed,” Mammen said in a statement.

The company has not disclosed a timeline for producing an Omicron-specific vaccine.

Pfizer

Pfizer has teamed up with German biotech company BioNTech to create a vaccine shot, and scientists are currently testing the injection against Omicron. Pfizer is also evolving an antiviral pill.

CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC last week that he was confident the pill could withstand Omicron. Pfizer has said that its pill – called Paxlovid – stops the spread of the virus in a person’s body by inserting a new compound that can bind to an enzyme in the virus, preventing it from multiplying in infected cells.

Pfizer said last week it was possible produce a vaccine tailored to Omicron in “approximately 100 days”, subject to regulatory approval.

AstraZeneca

CEO Pascal Soriot has not said much publicly about the new variant or whether the company should develop a new vaccine against it.

The British drugmaker teamed up with Oxford University to create its current vaccine, which is widely used in the UK but has not been approved for use in the US

Existing coronavirus vaccines, regardless of who produced them, are unlikely to perform well against Omicron, said Oxford professor Sarah Gilbert, who helped create AstraZeneca’s current jab.

“Until we know more, we must be careful and take steps to slow the spread of this new variant,” she told the BBC on Monday.