Head of Moderna warns ‘it will be MONTHS’ before there is a specific jab to fight Omicron after three more variant cases are confirmed in Scotland bringing UK total to 14
- Stephane Bancel, head of Moderna, warned vaccines were likely to struggle against the Omicron variant
- Experts say jabs are likely to be less effective against infection, but still protect well against hospitalisation
- Scotland announced one new Omicron case in Lanarkshire and two more in the Glasgow area today
- It comes after face masks again became mandatory on public transport and in shops across England
Covid vaccine maker Moderna warned today that it will take months to develop an Omicron-specific booster jab as Scotland detected three more cases of the mutant strain.
Stephane Bancel, chief executive at Massachusetts-based vaccine manufacturer, said he expects the highly-evolved Covid variant to cause a ‘material drop’ in the effectiveness of existing vaccines, warning that the result was ‘not going to be good’.
He warned that it will take until summer 2022 for Moderna to develop a new vaccine and scale up manufacturing to vaccinate entire populations.
Scientists say it will take two weeks to truly work out how effective jabs are against Omicron, which has twice as many mutations on its spike protein as Delta. The strain is expected to make current vaccines significantly weaker at preventing infections, but it’s less clear how it will impact hospitalisations and deaths.
Britain yesterday expanded its current booster rollout for all adults over 18. Even though the vaccines are expected to be much weaker against Omicron, it is hoped that topping up everyone’s immunity to very high levels will offer an extra line of defence against the incoming wave.
Scottish health authorities announced three more Omicron cases overnight, bringing the UK total to 14. Labs across the country are probing hundreds more probable cases and there are signs the strainis already spreading in the community.
Boris Johnson will hold a Downing Street press conference this afternoon to give an update on the Covid situation and lay out the suite of measures that kicked in this morning to tackle the variant.
From 4am, face masks were again compulsory in shops and on public transport in England. Those who are close contacts of potential Omicron cases must also self-isolate for ten days, regardless of vaccination status. Double-vaccinated people arriving in the UK are now also required to self-isolate for two days, and only leave their homes when they have received a negative PCR test.
But UK public health chiefs have warned people to avoid socialising before Christmas ‘unless you need to’ to help curb the spread of the virus. There are also calls for masks to return in restaurants, pubs and bars.