Nov 28, 2021 - Health

Moderna says updated vaccine for Omicron could be ready in early 2022

Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

Syringes and a vial of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

Moderna's chief medical officer Paul Burton said Sunday that a reformulated vaccine against the newly identified Omicron coronavirus variant could be ready as soon as early 2022 if it's found to be necessary.

Why it matters: Burton's comments on BBC's "Andrew Marr Show" come as companies are testing whether current COVID-19 vaccines will provide adequate protection against the strain.

  • The Omicron variant has a significant number of mutations that have led some to fear that it may be able to evade immune systems and drive a new wave of cases.
  • Burton reiterated that Moderna has "very effective vaccines," but that whether it will protect against the variant is not yet known, adding that "if people are on the fence and you haven't been vaccinated, get vaccinated."

What they're saying: "We should know about the ability of the current vaccine to provide protection in the next couple of weeks," Burton told host Andrew Marr.

  • The "remarkable thing about the MRNA vaccines, Moderna platform is that we can move very fast," he added.
  • "If we have to make a brand new vaccine, I think that's going to be early 2022 before that's really going to be available in large quantities."
  • Burton said the company "mobilized hundreds of people" immediately to work on an adjusted vaccine.

The big picture: Pfizer and BioNTech also said they are investigating the variant and could be ready to ship a redesigned shot within 100 days, CNBC reports.

  • The data collected from the investigation will "provide more information about whether B.1.1.529 could be an escape variant that may require an adjustment of our vaccine if the variant spreads globally," the companies said, per CNBC.
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