The CEO of Moderna believes a “double” dose of the booster jab may be needed to provide the best protection against the ‘highly infectious’ Omicron variant.
Stephane Bancel said not only is the new strain overtaking Delta in South Africa at a faster rate than previously seen but he also believes that the current vaccines may be less effective against Omicron.
Albert Bourla, chief executive of rival vaccine maker Pfizer/BioNTech said he was “very confident” the jab works against all known mutations of coronavirus, including Omicron.
However, he said his firm has already started making a new vaccine against the variant, adding: “Within 95 days basically we will have a new vaccine.”
Both stressed that more data is needed to fully understand whether B.1.1.529 is more contagious or resistant to vaccines.
Mr Bancel said: “Given the large number of mutations, it is highly possible that the efficacy of the vaccine, all of them, is going down. But we need to wait for the data to know if this is true, and how much is it going down.”
The high number of mutations on the protein spike the virus uses to infect human cells could mean existing vaccines need to be modified.
He said a higher dose booster jab would be the “first line of defence”.
“We’ve lowered the dose of a booster of a current vaccine, and so we have a lot of safety data showing that we could go back to a higher microgram dose at double the dose of a current vaccine, which should provide better protection than the third dose booster at 50 micrograms,” he said.
“So that’s the first line of defence, actionable right away.”