(NEW YORK POST) – BioNTech said Monday that it has started working on a COVID-19 vaccine to specifically target the new Omicron variant.
The biotechnology company, which co-created one of the current COVID-19 vaccines with Pfizer, said the development of an adapted shot is a standard process in the response to the emergence of any new variant.
BioNTech and Pfizer are both currently conducting studies to test whether their current shot may be effective against Omicron and have previously said that if necessary, they could ship a new vaccine tailored to the highly contagious variant in about 100 days.
“The first steps of developing a potential new vaccine overlap with the research necessary in order to evaluate whether a new shot will be needed,” the company said.
Moderna said Friday that it is developing a booster candidate for its current vaccine that will be tailored to the new variant.
The company said it is currently testing a higher dose of its existing booster as well as studying other booster candidates designed to protect against multiple variants.
“A booster dose of an authorized vaccine represents the only currently available strategy for boosting waning immunity,” Moderna said in the statement.
Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson, the maker of the only single-shot coronavirus vaccine currently used in the US, said it is evaluating its current immunization’s effectiveness against Omicron while also working on a new vaccine specifically targeting the variant.
The World Health Organization warned Monday that Omicron variant poses a “very high” risk of infection that could have “severe consequences” globally.
“The overall global risk related to the new variant … is assessed as very high,” the organization said, adding that it “has an unprecedented number of spike mutations, some of which are concerning for their potential impact on the trajectory of the pandemic.”
Experts said it’s too early to tell whether Omicron causes more severe illness compared to other strains, though the South African doctor who first sounded the alarm on the variant said that its symptoms are “unusual but mild” in healthy patients.