NEW DELHI: COVID-19 vaccines will not be enough to withstand the Omicron variant, warned the CEO of BioNTech, the German company behind the mRNA vaccine produced with Pfizer.
Ugur Sahin told the French daily Le Monde that even triple-vaccinated are likely to transmit the disease, adding that “it is obvious we are far from 95 per cent effectiveness that we obtained against the initial virus.”
Despite this, Sahin said early data from Britain and South Africa is providing us with “reassuring information”.
Researchers in South Africa have discovered that suggested that two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine offered 70 per cent effectiveness in reducing the risk of hospitalisation.
Sahin said testing for COVID-19 is important, especially for the elderly and during winter, as are other protective measures such as mask-wearing, adding.
Sahin said that his company is already designing a coronavirus vaccine adapted to the new variant, using Omicron’s spike protein and its 32 mutations as an antigen.
He said that his company should be able to deliver our first suitable vaccines to Omicron in March, subject to regulatory approval.
Some researchers have voiced concern about the effect of these new vaccines as instead of boosting new immune defences, they could risk boosting inadequate ones.
The World Health Organization said on Saturday Omicron had been detected in 89 countries and is spreading rapidly even in places with high levels of population immunity.
The Netherlands has already re-imposed lockdown due to the surge in cases.
The UN health agency said Omicron’s “substantial growth advantage” over the Delta variant means it is likely to soon takeover Delta as the dominant variant in those countries.
It is still unclear how effective vaccines are against the new variant.
Meanwhile, Moderna, which has also produced an mRNA vaccine, said on Monday that a booster dose of its vaccine appeared to be protective against Omicron.
Moderna said that its research so far showed that a 50 microgram dose of its vaccine, which is the current amount for a booster jab, increased the level of antibodies 37-fold, compared with two doses.
It also said a full dose of 100 micrograms boosted antibody levels 83-fold, it said.