Moderna boss predicts current vaccines may be less effective against Omicron

Omicron moderna

Existing vaccinations will be less efficient against Omicron than they were against the Delta variant, according to the CEO of US manufacturer Moderna, sending global financial markets drastically downwards.

While getting data on how current vaccines perform against the new Covid variant – and whether it causes severe disease – will take two weeks and modifying the current vaccines to fight Omicron will take many months, according to Stéphane Bancel.

“I don’t think there’s a world where effectiveness is at the same level as the Delta variant,” Bancel told the Financial Times.

Read more: Omicron poses very high global risk, could outcompete Delta: Experts

He predicted that pharmaceutical companies would have to choose between targeting Omicron and existing Covid variants, cautioning that shifting Moderna complete manufacturing capacity to an Omicron-specific jab would be hazardous.

Meanwhile, Bancel noted that the elderly or those with weakened immune systems might benefit from more strong boosters.

If the new Covid strain discovered in southern Africa is confirmed to evade current immunity, Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech said on that they could create and ship an upgraded version of their vaccine within 100 days.

Bancel predicted a “material drop” in the efficiency of existing vaccinations due to the high number of Omicron mutations on the spike protein, which the virus uses to infect human cells, and the rapid spreading of the variant in South Africa.

His remarks fueled more stock market declines around the world, adding to Friday’s sell-off. The Hong Kong market index sank 1.6 percent to its lowest level in over a year, while the London Stock Exchange’s FTSE 100 index fell 1.5 percent to its lowest level in seven weeks.

The FTSE 100 is on set to have its worst month in over a year, falling roughly 3% in November, the most since October 2020, when it dropped over 5% shortly before breakthrough vaccination trials spurred a global surge in November 2020.

Bancel’s remarks were “concerning,” according to Mohit Kumar, managing director at Jefferies. “The remarks are most likely reflective of the current scenario and the uncertainties surrounding the Omicron impact.” In a few weeks, we should have more information, but until then, the market will be vulnerable to headline risk.”

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