Late last week, coronavirus vaccine leaders Moderna and Pfizer announced plans in response to the designation of B.1.1.529 as the “omicron” variant of concern. Both are claiming a remarkably rapid response time for developing a variant-specific booster, if that becomes necessary.
“We expect more data from the laboratory tests in two weeks at the latest,” BioNTech said in a statement to Reuters. “These data will provide more information about whether B.1.1.529 could be an escape variant that may require an adjustment of our vaccine if the variant spreads globally.”
The BioNTech statement included the claim that they would be able to redesign their shot in six weeks and ship “within 100 days.” This is thanks to the work they have been doing on developing boosters for previous variants of concern.
Stéphane Bancel, Chief Executive Officer of Moderna, commented likewise: “The company has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to advance new candidates to clinical testing in 60-90 days.”
According to Reuters, Moderna and Pfizer have been carrying out trials on delta-specific boosters that were not intended to yield a commercial product. Rather, the goal was to work through and establish processes and protocols that would facilitate a speedy response to any future, more deadly coronavirus variant.
Pfizer shares gained more than 6% on the announcement. Moderna gained over 20%.
The laboratory tests now ongoing by the pharmaceutical giants will prove crucial to understanding omicron. But the most definitive news can be expected in the coming weeks as South African scientists work overtime to study the new variant as it moves through the population.
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