Pfizer said Friday it could produce oneVaccine for the In “approximately 100 days,” subject to government regulatory approval.
The pharmaceutical company said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch that its researchers are currently conducting tests to see if the company’s existing vaccine is effective against the variant, dubbed “Omicron” by the World Health Organization.
If not, Pfizer said it would “produce a tailor-made vaccine against the variant” along with its German vaccine partner, BioNTech. Pfizer and BioNTech expect to have results from its tests on Omicron in two weeks, Reuters reported.
A new vaccine would require approval by the Food and Drug Administration, possibly under emergency use permit. But this would first require US. It. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to declare Omicron an emergency for public health. It took Pfizer and BioNTech from December 2020 to August of this year to get full FDA approval for their vaccine.
South African health officials have said that Omicron has more mutations than previous strains that have previously emerged around the world, including the Delta variant. The concern is that the new variant may be more transmissible and more resistant to current vaccines, South African epidemiologist Salim Abdool Karim told CBS News.
“If this variant is like, or more transmissible than these“It will be very difficult to predict it, to do something different from what we have seen, which is that it would grow and spread throughout the world,” Karim said.
The WHO on Friday designated Omicron a “variant of concern,” noting in a statement that early evidence “suggests an increased risk of reinfection.”
To date, less than 100 cases of the new COVID-19 variant have been confirmed. Most of the cases have been among young people in South Africa, who have the lowest vaccination rate in the country. Botswana and Hong Kong also confirmed cases linked to Omicron in travelers who have recently returned from South Africa
The Biden administration said Friday it will limit travel from eight countries in South Africa over concerns about the variant circulating in the region, according to senior administration officials. Restrictions on travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Esvatini, Mozambique and Malawi will begin on Monday.
These restrictions do not apply to U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, although these people must still test negative before they travel.
Other vaccine makers on the case
Other drugmakers have said they are also exploring how the new variant interacts with their COVID-19 vaccine.
A spokesperson with Johnson & Johnson told CBS MoneyWatch that the company “was already testing the effectiveness of our vaccine against the new and rapidly spreading variant first detected in South Africa.” The spokesperson did not give a timeline for any potential changes to his one-shot vaccine.
Modernna said it was also testing how effective her vaccine was against Omicron, with data from the tests “expected in the coming weeks.”
“The mutations in the Omicron variant are about and, for several days, we are moving as fast as possible to execute our strategy to address this variant,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement.
Reports of the new variant rattled global financial markets. D, Or 2.5%, in abbreviated trading on Friday – the worst trading day of the year for the blue-chip index. The S&P 500 fell 2.3%, its biggest retreat since February, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq lost 2.2%.
In contrast, shares of vaccination maker jumped. Modern’s stock price increased by 22% to $ 33, while Pfizer increased by 6% to $ 54. Johnson & Johnson shares are mostly flat.