Drug companies are moving swiftly to test the effectiveness of their COVID-19 vaccines against a newer variant called Omicron, while countries impose travel restrictions as they gather information about the strain and its spread.
Businesshala reported that a COVID advisory to the South African government, where public health officials first identified the new variant last week, said symptoms associated with Omicron’s cases are mild to moderate.
The total number of cases in the country stands at 3,220 and there has been no increase in hospitalizations, the report said. Quoting comments from Barry Shou, Chairman of the South African Ministerial Advisory Committee on Vaccines. The large number of mutations in the variant in the spike protein, which allows COVID to enter and infect the body’s cells, has raised alarm in public health circles.
Businesshala quoted South African Medical Association president Angelique Coetzee as saying that nearly half of the men who came to her clinic with symptoms had not been vaccinated. About this 25% According to data from Johns Hopkins University, people in South Africa are vaccinated.
Authorities in Australia, Austria, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Israel, Hong Kong and Italy have found new tensions, especially among travelers arriving at their borders. Dutch authorities on Friday confirmed 13 cases of Omicron in 61 positive tests of passengers arriving on two flights from South Africa, The Wall Street Journal informed of,
Israel closed its border to foreign travelers on Sunday. And the US ban on travel from South Africa and seven other countries in Africa’s southern region went into effect Monday.
The US should know in two weeks whether the variant is resistant to current vaccines, Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Sunday’s news show, and stressed that now is the time for people to get vaccinated and get their booster shots if They haven’t already.
“I don’t think there’s any chance that it could completely evade any protection from the vaccine,” he told ABC. This week, “It might dampen it a bit, but that’s why you promote it.”
Dr. Fauci said on Sunday US public health officials were scheduled to meet with their South African counterparts to learn more about Omicron.
The discovery of a new variant sent shock waves across global markets on Friday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 900 points. The price of US crude is down 13%, reflecting concerns about fresh tensions for the economic reopening.
Moderna (ticker: mRNA) said Friday that it is working to rapidly develop an Omron-specific booster candidate, 60 to 90 days to start clinical trials.
Pfizer (PFE) and its partner BioNTech (BNTX) said on Friday they would know in two weeks whether their vaccine needed to be adjusted for Omicron and could have a dose ready in 100 days.
Moderna shares fell 20% on Friday after the Omicron variant spread. It recently stumbled upon a string of negative headlines, especially after missing third-quarter sales estimates earlier this month. In contrast, Pfizer beat estimates and said it controls 75% of the US COVID-19 vaccine market.
The emergence of a new variant has also raised questions about the effectiveness of the treatments currently under review. Merck (MRK) said its antiviral pill reduced the risk of hospitalization and death in high-risk Covid patients by 30%, down from 50% previously estimated. The Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing the drug. Pfizer is also working on a pill that can help people ease the symptoms of Kovid. The company said its drug, under FDA review, reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by about 89% in a preliminary study.
Write to Liz Moyer at [email protected]