Existing COVID-19 vaccines are unlikely to be effective against Omicron COVID-19 variant: Moderna’s CEO Stéphane Bancel

In a significant development, Moderna’s CEO Stéphane Bancel said, it is unlikely that existing COVID-19 vaccines will be effective against the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

With Bancel’s comments reaching the market, crude oil futures shed more than a dollar, the Nikkei gave up gains and the Australian dollar hit it yearly nadir. Bancel’s comments spurred fears that vaccine resistance could lead to more sickness and hospitalizations, prolonging the pandemic.

“There is no world, I think, where (the effectiveness) is the same level . . . we had with Delta,” said Bancel in an interview with the Financial Times.

“I think it’s going to be a material drop. I just don’t know how much because we need to wait for the data. But all the scientists I’ve talked to . . . are like ‘this is not going to be good’,” said Bancel.

Moderna did not immediately reply as to when it expects to have data on the effectiveness of its vaccine against Omicron, which according to the WHO, carries a very high risk.

Earlier Bancel had said, there will be more clarity on the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines against Omicron in around two weeks, and that it could take months to begin shipping a vaccine that work against the new variant.

Scientists and the WHO have said, it could up to several weeks to figure out the level of severity of the variant and its potential to escape protection against immunity induced by vaccines.

“Vaccination will likely still keep you out of the hospital,” said John Wherry, director of the Penn Institute for Immunology in Philadelphia.

The Omicron COVID-19 variant has triggered global anxiety with border closures casting a shadow over a nascent economic recovery from a two-year pandemic.

News of the new COVID-19 variant has wiped out roughly $2 trillion off the value of global stocks on Friday, but with investors awaiting for the release of data, some sense has of calm has been restored.

Remarks by US President Joe Biden that the United States would not reinstate lockdowns has helped soothe markets.

Omicron has been reported on November 24 in South Africa. Since then it has spread rapidly to more than a dozen countries. As a result, countries across the globe have moved to tighten border controls to prevent a recurrence of last year’s strict lockdowns and steep economic downturns.

Five travelers from In Australia, have so far tested positive for Omicron.

Australian authorities have also identified a sixth traveler who was most likely infected with the variant and had spent time in the community.

Canberra has delayed the reopening of its borders for international students and skilled migrants, less than 36 hours before they were due to be allowed back in.

“We’re doing this out of an abundance of caution but our overwhelming view is that whilst (Omicron) is an emerging variant, it is a manageable variant,” said Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.

“The people of Africa cannot be blamed for the immorally low level of vaccinations available in Africa – and they should not be penalized for identifying and sharing crucial science and health information with the world,” said U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a statement.

India, home to the world’s biggest vaccine maker, has readily approved supplies of COVID-19 vaccines to many African countries saying it can send them “expeditiously”.

While China has also pledged 1 billion doses of its vaccines, given their questionable effectiveness, there have not been too many takers as of late.

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