German biotechnology company BioNTech says it could produce and ship an updated version of the Pfizer vaccine within 100 days if the new Covid variant is found to compromise immunity.
The company is already investigating whether the vaccine it developed with US drugmaker Pfizer is effective against the variant, named Omicron.
The new strain was first detected in South Africa and has prompted global concern due its high number of mutations and initial suggestions that it could be transmitting more quickly.
BioNTech said it will know in two weeks whether its current vaccine is effective against the B.1.1.529 variant, and if required, the company is prepared to tweak the vaccine.
“Pfizer and BioNTech have taken actions months ago to be able to adapt the mRNA vaccine within six weeks and ship initial batches within 100 days in the event of an escape variant,” the company said in a statement.
Global authorities reacted with alarm on Friday to the new variant, with the EU and Britain among those tightening border controls as scientists sought to find out if the mutation was vaccine-resistant.
Moderna Inc. said in a statement that it is working to advance a booster candidate tailored to the new variant and has also been testing a higher dose of its existing booster and to study other booster candidates designed to protect against multiple variants.
Meanwhile, Johnson and Johnson said it is also closely monitoring emerging strains of Covid-19 and is testing the effectiveness of its shot against the new variant.
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