According to Moderna’s chief medical officer, Omicron, a novel coronavirus strain, may evade the current generation of Covid-19 vaccinations.
In the next weeks, scientists should know more about vaccinations’ capacity to give protection, according to Paul Burton.
“These mutations – at least 30 of them in the spike protein alone, nine of them known to be associated with immune escape, and another 11 are predicted to be associated with immune escape,” Mr Burton told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday.
“You bring those together [and] I think this is a very concerning virus.”
To adapt to the new strain, it is possible to alter the mRNA vaccine platform “very fast”, he said.
“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.”
Pfizer-BioNTech anticipates lab results on the efficacy of their Covid-19 vaccine against the strain in two weeks and plans to modify it in 60 days. In the case of a “escape variation,” the business claims it can supply the first batches within 100 days.
Experts said that even if immunizations lose some effectiveness against the strain, protection against severe sickness and death is anticipated to persist.
Moderna scholar Chise, who tweets as Chise, claimed on Twitter that there was “NO conceivable possibility this will bring us back to square one.”
“These vaccines are polyclonal, there are non-neutralising antibodies, and T-cells. Will the vaccines take a hit? Likely, as they do with ALL variants. Will it completely render these useless? Absolutely not,” she tweeted.
The World Health Organization recognised Omicron as a variation of concern on Friday, citing preliminary evidence that the strain had a higher risk of reinfection.
It has quickly surpassed Delta as the most common variation in Gauteng, South Africa’s most populous province, accounting for the great majority of instances.
Healthy people were suffering “strange but minor symptoms” such as “feeling very weary,” a “very high pulse rate,” and fever, according to a doctor who raised the alert about the new version in the province on Saturday.
“Their symptoms were so different and so mild from those I had treated before,” Dr Angelique Coetzee, a GP who chairs the South African Medical Association, told The Telegraph.
She stated that her patients were young and healthy, but that the new variety might still affect the elderly or those with underlying medical issues.
Early findings should be interpreted with caution, according to epidemiologists.
The comeback of cases in Gauteng was extremely recent and from a low base, with very quick rises in test positive rates, according to Richard Lessells, an infectious diseases physician at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa.
“Most of the early spread was among younger people, with outbreaks in universities likely being amplification events,” he tweeted.
“We would only expect to see the time lag for infections to progress to severe disease and impact on hospitalisations in the next few weeks.”
Doctors have cautioned that an increase in moderate to severe cases is already being seen among the young, who are either unvaccinated or barely partly vaccinated.
“We’re seeing a marked change in the demographic profile of patients with Covid-19,” Rudo Mathivha, the head of the intensive care unit at Soweto’s Baragwanath Hospital, told an online press briefing.
Patients in their 20s to their late 30s were “coming in with moderate to severe disease, some needing intensive care”, she said.
“About 65 per cent are not vaccinated and most of the rest are only half-vaccinated,” she said.
(Adapted from TheNationalNews.com)