WHO calls on pharmaceutical companies to prepare to adjust vaccines against mutations

SwitzerlandThe World Health Organization (WHO) on December 3 called on pharmaceutical companies to prepare to modify existing vaccines to prevent future nCoV strains.

At the United Nations meeting in Geneva, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said an agency was studying the transmission and severity of the Omicron variant. “We strongly encourage vaccine manufacturers to start planning ahead in the event that an existing vaccine needs to be adjusted, not waiting for a final announcement,” Lindmeier said.

South African scientists studying Omicron believe that people who are reinfected or infected after vaccination have milder symptoms. Maria van Kerkhove, WHO technical team leader on Covid-19, said information on Omicron’s transmissibility would be released within the next few days.

“We need time, don’t jump to conclusions right now. Preliminary data suggest that the virus is more contagious. But this is just the basic information we have at this time,” Mr. Lindmeier said.

Delta is still the dominant strain globally, accounting for more than 90% of infections, he said. “Omicron may be on the rise. Maybe at some point it will dominate, but for now, the dominant variant is still Delta,” he said.

Stéphane Bancel, director of the pharmaceutical company Moderna, previously said that its vaccine may be less effective against the Omicron strain. While Professor Ugur Sahin, director of BioNTech, a partner of Pfizer, predicts that the vaccine is still effective in preventing severe symptoms and the risk of death for people infected with Omicron.

A vial of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine is used at Mount Athos, Greece, November 16. Photo: Reuters

Omicron first appeared in Botswana on November 11, then was discovered and announced by South Africa on November 24, when the number of infections in the country increased exponentially in just a few weeks. Two days later, WHO announced that this strain was classified as “worrying”.

Scientists have mixed opinions about Omicron. Some argue that vaccines will be less effective than mutations. Others said that the community should not be too confused, the current vaccine is still effective and does not need to be produced a new generation.

Regarding the transmission speed, experts almost agree that Omicron spreads faster than previous strains. The number of people testing positive for the virus in South Africa has increased since the mutation emerged. Currently, more than 20 countries around the world have recorded this new strain of infection.

Thuc Linh (Follow Reuters)


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