Omicron: China's vaccine may not be effective says expert
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It comes after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) called on laboratories to find a vaccine that not only protects people from the new Omicron strain, but all variants. Marco Cavalieri, head of the EMA’s vaccination programme, said: “The important message is not to exclude any option, it would be equally important to consider not only a vaccine against one variant to increase the catalogue of options that could be considered for the vaccines that are put on the market. “We want a vaccine that covers as many variants of concern as possible”.
He added that “a multivariant [vaccine] is the best option”.
Pharmaceutical giant Moderna has reportedly already begun looking into a combined vaccine against Covid and influenza.
The company has said this could be ready in 2023.
The EMA’s calls came after it emerged that Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa, may be more resistant to the current available vaccines.
The EU recalled its contracts with the pharmaceutical companies who had worked on vaccines, stating that they were obliged to update them in case a new variant made them less effective.
It was thought that companies like Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca would take around 100 days to find a new formula.
But as the deadline approached, the EMA changed its tone and called for a new vaccine that addresses all variants.
Back in November, the regulator urged the companies to determine to the extent to which Omicron escaped the immunity of the existing vaccines.
And if it did so significantly, the EMA said a new formula must be found.
Mr Cavalieri said this marks the beginning of a debate and a “reflection” on a “long-term strategy” for vaccination against Covid.
The EMA has ruled out the general administration of a fourth dose in a few months.
But it has not rejected calls for annual booster doses, as done with seasonal influenza.
The regulator is also looking to have this conversation with the laboratories, which are working on a fully effective vaccine against the Omicron variant.
An early trial of a multivariant COVID-19 vaccine booster has shown positive results.
The study was launched by the University of Manchester in September 2021.
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Prof Andrew Ustianowski said: “We know the immune response to first generation vaccines can wane, particularly in older people.
“Coupled with the prevalence of emerging variants, there is a clear need for continued vigilance to keep COVID-19 at bay.
“We believe this vaccine, as a booster, will elicit strong, durable, and broad immune responses, which may well be likely to be critical in maintaining protection of this vulnerable elderly population who are particularly at risk of hospitalisation and death.”
Nearly 37 million people are fully vaccinated in the UK, according to the Government’s coronavirus dashboard.
As of January 19, 2022, there have been 652,469 in the last seven days.
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