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Moderna CEO predicts vaccines will be less effective against Omicron variant

·2-min read

The head of drugmaker Moderna said Covid vaccines are unlikely to be as effective against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus as they have been previously, sparking fresh concerns about the trajectory of the pandemic.

"There is no world, I think, where (the effectiveness) is the same level . . . we had with Delta," Moderna chief executive Stéphane Bancel told 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.'"

Vaccine resistance could lead to more sickness and hospitalisations and prolong the pandemic.

Mr Bancel added that the high number of mutations on the protein spike the virus uses to infect human cells meant it was likely the current crop of vaccines would need to be modified.

He had earlier said on CNBC that it could take months to begin shipping a vaccine that does work against Omicron.

Fear of the new variant, despite a lack of information about its severity, has already triggered delays to some economic reopening plans and the reimposition of some travel and movement restrictions.

Reintroduced restrictions begin in the UK on Tuesday - including mandatory masks on public transport and in shops, and the requirement for all arrivals to self-isolate until they have received a negative result from a day two PCR test.

Some officials, though, have tried to strike a more upbeat note.

US President Joe Biden said Omicron was “a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” adding that his government’s medical experts “believe that the vaccines will continue to provide a degree of protection against severe disease”.

On Monday, Scott Gottlieb, a Pfizer director, told CNBC: “There’s a reasonable degree of confidence in vaccine circles that [with] at least three doses . . . the patient is going to have fairly good protection against this variant.”

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