US company Moderna begins work on vaccine against new SARS-CoV-2 variant ‘Omicron’

US-based biotechnological company Moderna works on a new booster vaccine against a new SARS-CoV-2 variant, B.1.1.529, which was assigned the name ‘Omicron,’ the company said in a statement.

"The recently described Omicron variant includes mutations seen in the Delta variant that are believed to increase transmissibility and mutations seen in the Beta and Delta variants that are believed to promote immune escape," the statement reads.

"A booster dose of an authorized vaccine represents the only currently available strategy for boosting waning immunity," according to the company. "The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine (mRNA-1273) is authorized as a booster for many populations at the 50 µg dose level."

"The Company is working rapidly to test the ability of the current vaccine dose to neutralize the Omicron variant and data is expected in the coming weeks," the statement added.

On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) designated the B.1.1.529 variant as a "Variant of Concern" and assigned it the Greek letter Omicron. It also said that the new variant has "a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning." "Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs," it said.

The data on the new SARS-CoV-2 variant, B.1.1.529, which was identified in the south of Africa, was put on the international database GISAID on November 22.

The WHO expressed concern over reports from South Africa about the rapid spread of the infection in the densely-populated Gauteng province, which may indicate the strain’s high transmissibility. Several countries have suspended air service with South Africa and other countries in the south of Africa.

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