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Head of Moderna warns effectiveness of jabs on Omicron is probably ‘not going to be good’ #englishheadline #Moderna #warns #effectiveness #jabs #Omicron #good

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Covid vaccine maker Moderna warned today that it will take months to develop an Omicron-specific booster jab as Scotland detected three more cases of the mutant strain.

Stephane Bancel, chief executive at Massachusetts-based vaccine manufacturer, said he expects the highly-evolved Covid variant to cause a ‘material drop’ in the effectiveness of existing vaccines, warning that the result was ‘not going to be good’. 

He warned that it will take until summer 2022 for Moderna to develop a new vaccine and scale up manufacturing to vaccinate entire populations. 

Scientists say it will take two weeks to truly work out how effective jabs are against Omicron, which has twice as many mutations on its spike protein as Delta. The strain is expected to make current vaccines significantly weaker at preventing infections, but it’s less clear how it will impact hospitalisations and deaths. 

Britain yesterday expanded its current booster rollout for all adults over 18. Even though the vaccines are expected to be much weaker against Omicron, it is hoped that topping up everyone’s immunity to very high levels will offer an extra line of defence against the incoming wave.

Scottish health authorities announced three more Omicron cases overnight, bringing the UK total to 14. Labs across the country are probing hundreds more probable cases and there are signs the strainis already spreading in the community.

Boris Johnson will hold a Downing Street press conference this afternoon to give an update on the Covid situation and lay out the suite of measures that kicked in this morning to tackle the variant.

From 4am, face masks were again compulsory in shops and on public transport in England. Those who are close contacts of potential Omicron cases must also self-isolate for ten days, regardless of vaccination status. Double-vaccinated people arriving in the UK are now also required to self-isolate for two days, and only leave their homes when they have received a negative PCR test. 

Vaccine-makers Moderna and Pfizer are already working on Covid vaccines that could tackle the Omicron strain, if it poses a problem for the current crop of vaccines, but they won’t be ready until mid-2022

The Botswana variant has around 50 mutations and more than 30 of them are on the spike protein. The current crop of vaccines trigger the body to recognise the version of the spike protein from older versions of the virus. But the mutations may make the spike protein look so different that the body's immune system struggles to recognise it and fight it off. And three of the spike mutations (H665Y, N679K, P681H) help it enter the body's cells more easily. Meanwhile, it is missing a membrane protein (NSP6) which was seen in earlier iterations of the virus, which experts think could make it more infectious. And it has two mutations (R203K and G204R) that have been present in all variants of concern so far and have been linked with infectiousness

The Botswana variant has around 50 mutations and more than 30 of them are on the spike protein. The current crop of vaccines trigger the body to recognise the version of the spike protein from older versions of the virus. But the mutations may make the spike protein look so different that the body’s immune system struggles to recognise it and fight it off. And three of the spike mutations (H665Y, N679K, P681H) help it enter the body’s cells more easily. Meanwhile, it is missing a membrane protein (NSP6) which was seen in earlier iterations of the virus, which experts think could make it more infectious. And it has two mutations (R203K and G204R) that have been present in all variants of concern so far and have been linked with infectiousness 

Moderna alongside other vaccine manufacturers is working on a tweaked version of their jab to fight the Omicron variant. But scientists say it could take 100 days before it is available.

Mr Bancel told the Financial Times that his company could deliver between two to three billion doses in 2022, but added it would be dangerous to shift all production to an Omicron-specific shot while other variants of the virus remained in circulation.

Health minister Gillian Keegan claims it is better to overreact than underreact 

Health Minister Gillian Keegan today insisted it is better for the UK to ‘overreact than underreact’ to the new Omicron coronavirus variant after Joe Biden told the US the mutant strain is ‘not a cause for panic’.

The Government’s new rules on face masks and self-isolation to slow the spread of the variant came into effect in England from 4am this morning.

Ms Keegan said ministers are trying to strike the right ‘balance’ in the response but she admitted it is a difficult judgment to make because there are many ‘unknowns’ associated with the variant.

Meanwhile, Ms Keegan insisted ‘Christmas is on track’ amid fears the Omicron variant could result in more people having to self-isolate over the festive period.

Mr Biden, the US President, said last night that ‘this variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic’.

His comments have prompted scrutiny of the UK’s response which has seen ministers roll out three main curbs to buy scientists some time as they race to analyse the new variant and assess how effective existing vaccines will be against it.

Face masks are once again compulsory in shops and on public transport while all travellers returning to the UK must now take a PCR test on or before day two after their arrival. They can leave isolation once they have a negative test result.

A raft of new restrictions came into force in England today but it stopped short of ‘Plan B’, which would also see vaccine passports and work from home guidance return. 

Dr Jenny Harries told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the advice from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) ‘has shown that if we have significant surges in Covid cases, then actually working from home is one of the key ones to implement and that’s why it is in Plan B’.

‘But it’s probably worth just thinking through at the moment; although I’m sure we will have more cases announced, we do only have five confirmed cases (of the new Omicron variant in England) and 10 highly probable at the moment.

‘So it’s a very early stage for this, I think, but certainly, if we see surges, then working from home will be a good thing to do.’

Speaking earlier about vaccine effectiveness, she said it is highly likely that the UK’s vaccination programme will be beneficial in the face of the Omicron variant but experts also expect vaccine effectiveness to be reduced.

She said the current understanding is that the booster will ‘shoot up your immunity levels and so getting that high background level of immunity on a population basis may, to some extent, counter the reduced effectiveness against this particular variant’.

She added that there is a need to ‘be really careful about interpreting the data’ after suggestions from South Africa that the variant is causing mild illness, saying that the UK has an older population, with an average age of 41, compared with 27 in South Africa.

Asked about the prospect of Christmas plans being called off, Professor Paul Moss, from the Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy at the University of Birmingham and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), told Sky News: ‘I don’t think we need to worry too much about that at this stage… the measures that we got in place have a good chance of gaining some control here.

‘The two ways that we’re adopting to try and control this are: one, in behavioural change to reduce transmission: the travel restrictions; more lateral flows; masking.

‘And the second big factor is the immunity and we know that we may lose some immunity with this virus. So what is happening is we are boosting our immune levels to super-high levels with the plans that were introduced yesterday, and that should retain some protection.

‘What we’ve seen with Covid is that things change very rapidly. And I think we need at least three weeks to assess this.

‘We need excellent epidemiology and within the laboratory people are testing the resistance of the virus against vaccinated samples. So we will need that sort of time. And we will know a lot more before Christmas.’

He added: ‘You probably saw that the doctor in South Africa who initially identified it had seen relatively mild cases, which is very encouraging.

‘However, you know, that’s a much younger population.

‘It’s the elderly population, we need to worry about – in South Africa only 6% are above 65 years whereas we’ve got a much higher proportion.’



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#Moderna #warns #effectiveness #jabs #Omicron #good

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