The chief executive of vaccine maker Moderna said the company is already working on boosters to address the omicron variant of COVID-19, and the chief executive of Pfizer says a new omicron-specific vaccine could be ready in 100 days if needed. .
NEW YORK – The omicron variant of COVID-19 appears to be more infectious than the delta variant, and the large number of omicron mutations means that all vaccines may be less effective, Moderna’s CEO said Monday.
Stephane Bancel made the comments in an interview with CNBC.
“We think this virus is highly infectious … it appears to be much more infectious than delta,” Bancel said. He estimated that any country that has accepted travelers from southern African nations in the past 7 to 10 days is likely to have the omicron variant in mind.
“It is quite possible that the efficacy of the vaccines, all of them, is declining,” he added later.
Bancel said it will be at least a couple of weeks before the scientific community can better handle the question of the vaccine’s efficacy, and 2-6 weeks until they know if omicron is more virulent than delta.
But Moderna is already working on drivers to address the new variant, he said. In a couple of weeks, Bancel noted, the company will know which strategy to follow: a higher dose of current vaccines, or a booster, or a new vaccine to address the variant.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, who appeared on CNBC later in the morning, echoed Bancel’s sentiments.
“There are many unknowns at the moment. Keep in mind that we have been preparing for something like this for months, “Bourla said of the possible emergence of a stronger variant of COVID.
“I think the results could be, that we don’t know yet, that vaccines are less protective,” Bourla added.
He said Pfizer already started work last Friday on developing a new version of the vaccine targeting omicron, one that could be ready in about 100 days. (Pfizer also made new vaccines for the beta and delta variants, but they ultimately proved unnecessary.)