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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.

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters, WHO says — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older.
  5. Variant tracker

Ohio schools can't require COVID shots — for now

Expand chart
Reproduced from National Academy for State Health Policy; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

While COVID-19 vaccines are now available for children ages 5 and older, it's unlikely they'll be added to Ohio's schedule of required student vaccinations any time soon.

First look: Senators propose bill to ban corporate PACs

Sens. Jon Ossoff and Mark Kelly. Photos: Chip Somodevilla (left), Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

Sens. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) and Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) will soon propose a bill prohibiting for-profit corporations from establishing and managing political action committees, according to a copy of the legislation obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The introduction of "The Ban Corporate PACs Act" comes amid heightened scrutiny on Capitol Hill regarding money in politics, including efforts to bar companies from influencing political campaigns and federal elections. It would likely face a court challenge and First Amendment concerns.