Debate grows over the efficacy of omicron vaccines

Mexico City.- Eleven days after the detection in South Africa of the new variant of Covid-19, named omicron, the debate on the efficacy of vaccines accelerated and pharmaceutical companies are already analyzing adapting their drugs, Excelsior reported.

As countries cut air connections with southern Africa fearing a new global wave of the coronavirus, scientists were rushing to collect data on omicron.

In interviews, experts said the variant may be more transmissible and better able to evade the body’s immune responses.

Vaccines may still prevent serious illness and death, although booster doses may be necessary, they argue. However, the makers of the two most effective vaccines, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, are preparing to reformulate their vaccines.

“We really have to be on the lookout for this new variant and prepare for it,” said Jesse Bloom, an evolutionary biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

Despite the restrictions, the virus has been found in nearly four dozen countries, according to the World Health Organization. Yesterday, the United States announced three more cases of omicron, and Chile confirmed the first case of the variant detected in its territory.

The spread of omicron, which triples the risk of contagions represented by the delta variant, is accelerating in the world.

In just 36 hours since the first signs of trouble in South Africa, researchers analyzed samples from 100 infected patients, collated the data and alerted the world, said Tulio de Oliveira, a geneticist at the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine in Durban.

An hour after the first alarm, South African scientists also rushed to test vaccines against the new variant. Now dozens of teams – including researchers at Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna – have joined the race.

Results won’t be known for another two weeks.

Specialists claim that mRNA vaccines were made with a technology that allows rapid modification. Pfizer scientists “can tailor the current vaccine in six weeks and ship the initial batches within 100 days in the event of a variant that escapes the vaccine” that bypasses the immune system, said Jerica Pitts, a Pfizer spokeswoman.

Moderna could update its current vaccine in about two months and have clinical results in about three months if necessary, said Stephen Hoge, president of Moderna.

And amid the global alert, Ntsakisi Maluleke, a South African health official, said that the increase in hospital admissions for children due to the omicron is not a cause for panic.

Although he said that of the 1,511 positive patients for covid in hospitals in Gauteng province, 113 are under the age of nine, a higher proportion than during previous waves of the infection.

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