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Moderna says an omicron variant vaccine could be ready in early 2022

A registered nurse applies a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Sarasota Hospital worker Larry Hammers, 62, at the Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Sarasota, Florida, September 24, 2021.

Shannon Stapleton | Reuters

Moderna’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Burton said Sunday the vaccine maker could roll out a reformulated vaccine against the omicron coronavirus variant early next year.

It’s not clear whether new formulations will be needed, or if current Covid vaccinations will provide protection against the new variant that has begun to spread around the globe.

“We should know about the ability of the current vaccine to provide protection in the next couple of weeks, but the remarkable thing about the MRNA vaccines, Moderna platform is that we can move very fast,” Burton said on BBC’s “Andrew Marr Show.”

“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,” the Moderna chief added.

Omicron has been classified as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization, meaning it is more contagious, more virulent or more skilled at evading public health measures, vaccines and therapeutics. The variant contains 30 mutations to the spike protein that allows the virus to enter the body. Officials have warned that many of these mutations could lead to increased antibody resistance and transmissibility, which could limit the effectiveness of existing Covid vaccines.

The vaccine maker “mobilized hundreds” of workers starting early Thursday morning, on Thanksgiving, to start studying the new variant, the company said in a statement.

Current vaccines could provide some protection, depending on how long ago a person was injected, Burton said. Still, he said unvaccinated people should get vaccinated or receive their booster shots, if eligible.

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