Moderna warns jabs may be less effective against Omicron

Head of Moderna warns ‘it will be MONTHSbefore there is a specific jab to fight Omicron after three more variant cases are confirmed in Scotland bringing UK total to 14

  • Stephane Bancel, head of Moderna, warned vaccines were likely to struggle against the Omicron variant
  • Experts say jabs are likely to be less effective against infection, but still protect well against hospitalisation
  • Scotland announced one new Omicron case in Lanarkshire and two more in the Glasgow area today
  • It comes after face masks again became mandatory on public transport and in shops across England
  • 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 dropin 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, indipendentemente dallo stato di vaccinazione. 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.

    But UK public health chiefs have warned people to avoid socialising before Christmas ‘unless you need toto help curb the spread of the virus. There are also calls for masks to return in restaurants, pubs and bars.

    A SAGE scientist said the UK was ‘very well preparedto combat another variant. Professor Paul Moss said expanding the booster programme will turbo-charge immunity to ‘super-highlevels to help keep the Omicron variant at bay.

    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

    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

    Britain has 14 confirmed Omicron infections, as Government labs probe hundreds of other possible cases. There are nine infections in Scotland, including some with no links to foreign travel suggesting the variant is already circulating in the community. There are five confirmed cases in England and all are linked to travel abroad

    Britain has 14 confirmed Omicron infections, as Government labs probe hundreds of other possible cases. There are nine infections in Scotland, including some with no links to foreign travel suggesting the variant is already circulating in the community. There are five confirmed cases in England and all are linked to travel abroad

    La variante del Botswana ha in giro 50 mutazioni e altro ancora 30 di loro sono sulla proteina spike. 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. E tre delle mutazioni spike (H665Y, N679K, P681H) aiutarlo a entrare più facilmente nelle cellule del corpo. Nel frattempo, manca una proteina di membrana (NSP6) che è stato visto nelle precedenti iterazioni del virus, che secondo gli esperti potrebbe renderlo più contagioso. E ha due mutazioni (R203K e G204R) che sono stati finora presenti in tutte le varianti di preoccupazione e sono stati collegati con l'infettività

    La variante del Botswana ha in giro 50 mutazioni e altro ancora 30 di loro sono sulla proteina spike. 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. E tre delle mutazioni spike (H665Y, N679K, P681H) aiutarlo a entrare più facilmente nelle cellule del corpo. Nel frattempo, manca una proteina di membrana (NSP6) che è stato visto nelle precedenti iterazioni del virus, che secondo gli esperti potrebbe renderlo più contagioso. E ha due mutazioni (R203K e G204R) che sono stati finora presenti in tutte le varianti di preoccupazione e sono stati collegati con l'infettività

    Mr Bancel told the Financial Times: ‘There is no world, credo, dove [the effectiveness] is the same levelwe had with Delta.

    ‘I think it’s going to be a material drop [in vaccine effectiveness]. I just don’t know how much because we need to wait for the data. But all the scientists I’ve talked toare likethis is not going to be good”.’

    He added that some two to three billion doses could be delivered by his company before the end of next year, but that it was dangerous to shift all production to an Omicron-specific shot while other countries were still battling a wave of the Delta variant.

    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 underreactto 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 ‘balancein the response but she admitted it is a difficult judgment to make because there are many ‘unknownsassociated with the variant.

    Nel frattempo, Ms Keegan insisted ‘Christmas is on trackamid fears the Omicron variant could result in more people having to self-isolate over the festive period.

    signor 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.

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    Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla says they have already started developing an Omicron-fighting jab.

    But it will take 100 days before it can be made available to the public — or in the spring.

    Scott Gottlieb, a director at Pfizer, told CNBC yesterday: ‘There’s a reasonable degree of confidence in vaccine circles that [con] at least three dosesthe patient is going to have fairly good protection against this variant.

    Current jabs train the immune system to recognise an older version of the spike protein — which the virus uses to invade cells — from the Wuhan virus.

    But lots of changes to this protein lead to a ‘mis-matchbetween antibodies and spikes.

    This means they bind less well to the virus, making them less effective at fighting it off.

    Scientists say they can tweak vaccines to target a new spike by changing the formula used.

    But they warn it will be months before any new jabs can start rolling off the production line and into people’s arms.

    There is no evidence yet that vaccines work less well against Omicron compared to other variants.

    Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines were both used in the initial roll out, and are available as booster doses. Figures show some 2.8million Moderna and 45million Pfizer jabs have been dished out in the UK so far.

    Alcuni 14 cases of the variant have been spotted in the UK to date with nine in Scotland and five in England.

    Scotland’s cases are based around Lanarkshire and the Greater Glasgow and Clyde areas. Health chiefs say ‘someare not linked to foreign travel, suggesting the virus is already spreading in the community there.

    In Inghilterra, Omicron cases have been detected in Westminster, Camden, Wandsworth, Nottingham and Brentwood. All are linked to travel abroad.

    New Covid curbs have been brought in to slow the spread of the variant in the UK.

    Ha detto il signor Johnson: ‘The measures taking effect today are proportionate and responsible, and will buy us time in the face of this new variant.

    ‘Not only will today’s steps help us slow down the variant’s spread, but they will help us protect each other and the gains we have all worked so hard for.

    He is due to hold a press conference later today to iron out the restrictions, and update the nation on the threat posed by Omicron.

    But experts have already called on Britons to further curb their daily lives with the new head of NHS Test and Trace saying people should avoid socialising before christmass ‘unless you need to’.

    Dr Jenny Harries issued the stark warning as she admitted that vaccines are less likely to be effective against the strain, which she said could have a ‘significant impact on our hospitals’.

    She hinted that work from home could be the next measure to be reintroduced if the outbreak starts to grow, aggiungendo: ‘If we see surges, then working from home will be a good thing to do.

    Boris Johnson (nella foto sabato) will hold a Downing Street press conference today to update the nation on the new restrictions, and on efforts to fight the Omicron variant

    Boris Johnson (nella foto sabato) will hold a Downing Street press conference today to update the nation on the new restrictions, and on efforts to fight the Omicron variant

    British toursitsski holiday chaos as Switzerland brings in ten-day quarantine

    Winter holiday plans for thousands of Britons have been thrown into chaos after Switzerland suddenly tightened Covid entry rules over fears of the Omicron variant.

    Anyone wanting to travel to the Alpine country from the UK including for onward transit now has to quarantine for 10 days on arrival, even if they have been double-vaccinated, recovered from Covid or tested negative.

    The rules will ruin the holiday plans of thousands of Britons who fly to Geneva in order to reach nearby French ski resorts such as Val Thorens, Courchevel, and Meribelas well as resorts in Switzerland itself.

    It comes after France announced it would require a Covid vaccine pass to access ski slopes, causing further difficulties for Britons wanting to travel.

    Those hoping to reach the French resorts are now being forced to divert to Lyon, though capacity is far more limited at that airport than Geneva.

    Anyone unable to get a flight to Lyon faces either a three-hour transfer from Grenoble, or else an eight-hour journey from Calais.

    Switzerland imposed its new restrictions at 8pm on Saturday, after two cases of the Omicron variant of Covid were discovered in the UK.

    Some travellers caught unawares by the sudden change faced the nightmare situation of landing at Geneva, only to be turned around by border guards.

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    UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) chief executive Dr Harries today told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the advice from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGGIO) ‘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) e 10 highly probable at the moment.

    ‘So it’s a very early stage for this, credo, ma certamente, 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, in una certa misura, counter the reduced effectiveness against this particular variant’.

    She added that there is a need to ‘be really careful about interpreting the dataafter 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, paragonato a 27 in Sud Africa.

    Professor Paul Moss, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGGIO), said that scientists are ‘well preparedto tweak the vaccines in the event that the Omicron variant evades the protection afforded by the current crop of jabs.

    Professor Moss, from the Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy at the University of Birmingham, ha detto a Sky News: ‘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. So we will need that sort of time. And we will know a lot more before Christmas.

    Ha aggiunto: 'Bene, come sapete, the companies have already started — the gene has been cloned, but typically talking around 100 giorni.

    ‘We’ve learned so much in the last 18 months — nobody felt we would get a vaccine within a year when the pandemic started, and we did — we got several.

    ‘So it will be accelerated and, ovviamente, if we were in that severe situation — but I really hope that we won’t get to, by the way — we’re very well prepared. We know what to do.

    The new restrictions stop short of ‘Plan Bmeasures at present, which would also see vaccine passports and work from home guidance reintroduced in England.

    Health minister Gillian Keegan said today that Christmas was still ‘on track’.

    But she also said it was better for ministers to over-react to the new variant than under-react and allow it to spread before scientists confirmed whether it was ultra transmissible and could escape vaccines.

    Ms Keegan said ministers are trying to strike the right ‘balancein the response but she admitted it is a difficult judgment to make because there are many ‘unknownsassociated with the variant.

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

    His comments 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.

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