Dec 8 (Reuters) - The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has
sparked fears that existing COVID-19 vaccines and treatment
could be less effective against it.
South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases
said early epidemiological data suggested Omicron was able to
evade some immunity, but existing vaccines should still protect
against severe disease and death.
Here's what companies that make COVID-19 vaccines and drugs
CEO Stéphane Bancel has warned that COVID-19 vaccines are
unlikely to be as effective against the Omicron variant.
The company has said a new vaccine tailored for Omicron
should be available as soon as March.
Companies said a three-shot course of their COVID-19 vaccine
was shown to generate a neutralizing effect against the new
Omicron variant in a lab test.
Two vaccine doses resulted in significantly lower
neutralising antibodies but a third dose increased the
neutralising antibodies by a factor of 25, they said, adding
that they can deliver an Omicron-based vaccine in March 2022.
Earlier, a lab study conducted in South Africa showed that
Omicron variant can partially evade protection from two doses of
the PFE/BNTX shot.
JOHNSON & JOHNSON
J&J said https://www.jnj.com/johnson-johnson-to-evaluate-its-covid-19-vaccine-against-new-omicron-covid-19-variant
it was testing blood serum from participants in various trials
to look for neutralizing activity against the Omicron variant.
It was also pursuing an Omicron-specific vaccine and would
progress it as needed.
The company, however, remains confident in the immune
responses generated by its shot against other variants to date
in clinical studies, said Mathai Mammen, global head of J&J arm
Janssen Research & Development.
ASTRAZENECA PLC-UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD
AstraZeneca said it was examining the impact of Omicron on
its vaccine, which is developed with Oxford University, and its
antibody cocktail, adding it was hopeful its combination drug
would retain efficacy.
REGENERON PHARMACEUTICALS INC
Its COVID-19 antibody drug could be less effective against
Omicron, Regeneron said.
Based on its study of Omicron's individual mutations, "there
may be reduced neutralization activity of both vaccine-induced
and monoclonal antibody conveyed immunity", Regeneron said,
adding that the analysis included its COVID-19 antibody
ELI LILLY AND CO
The company, which also makes monoclonal antibody treatment,
is working to understand the neutralization activity of its
therapies on Omicron, the company told Reuters in an e-mailed
MERCK & Co Inc
Merck's experimental COVID-19 drug, molnupiravir, which it
is co-developing with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, should have
similar activity against any new coronavirus variant, a company
May begin commercial manufacturing of a COVID-19 vaccine
tailored for the Omicron coronavirus variant in January next
year, while it tests whether or not its current vaccine works
against the variant.
GILEAD SCIENCES INC
Gilead has said it believes its drug - Veklury or remdesivir
- will continue to be active against the Omicron variant. It
plans to conduct laboratory tests to confirm its analysis.
Laboratory analysis of the COVID-19 antibody therapy
GlaxoSmithKline is developing with U.S. partner Vir
Biotechnology has indicated the drug is effective
against the new Omicron variant, the British drugmaker said.
(Compilation by Manas Mishra, Oishee Majumdar and Leroy Leo and
Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)