Pfizer and J&J are working on a version of their omicron vaccines

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New York (AFP) – The Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) laboratories reported on Monday that they began work on a new version of their anticovid vaccines aimed specifically at the omicron variant, in case the current ones are not effective enough.

“There are still many things that are unknown” about the new variant, first detected in South Africa and considered “worrisome” by the WHO, said the executive director of the US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, Albert Bourla on Monday.

“We will know the essentials of what we need to know in a few weeks,” he added in an interview with the US network CNBC.

Trials will be conducted to evaluate the efficacy of current omicron vaccines.

Johnson & Johnson said in a statement “to be evaluating the efficacy of its vaccine against covid-19 against the variants”, including omicron Tobias Schwarz AFP

But if “it protects less and we see the need to create a new vaccine, we have started working since Friday. We have made our first DNA model, which is the first stage in the development of a new vaccine,” explained Bourla.

Pfizer has already created two new versions of its vaccine in less than a hundred days, against the delta and beta variants, which were ultimately not used. “In 95 days, we will have the new omicron vaccine,” said its executive director.

His group has the capacity to produce four billion doses next year, he added.

For its part, Johnson & Johnson said in a statement on Monday “to be evaluating the efficacy of its vaccine against covid-19 against the variants”, including omicron.

In parallel, the group “is working on a more specific vaccine for omicron, which it will develop if necessary.”

The lab “continues to rely” on the immune response to its current single-dose vaccine against the various variants, said Mathai Mammen, research manager at Janssen, the J&J subsidiary that develops the vaccine.

However, J&J will be able “quickly” to start clinical trials if necessary, he said.

For its part, the Moderna laboratory, which also produces a vaccine against covid, had announced on Friday its intention to develop a specific booster dose for omicron.

The Pfizer director also assured that they continue to “trust” the vaccine that is currently being distributed, because we achieved “a good dose from the beginning.”

The anticovid pill developed by Pfizer to treat the disease, which has been shown to be 89% effective against hospitalizations and deaths in clinical trials, was also “developed with the idea” that virus mutations would appear, Bourla said.

“I am confident in the ability (of the pill) to work with all mutations, including omicron,” he said.

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