Pfizer BioNTech Reveals Vaccine Rework Plan for Omicron COVID-19 Variant

To counter a “vaccine-escape” variant, Pfizer and BioNTech said on Friday that they could tweak and produce a COVID-19 vaccine in 100 days.

A strain known as B.1.1.529 strain was recently found in southern Africa.

It was labeled with the Greek letter Omicron and considered a highly transmissible “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization.

As it stated in an e-mail to FOX Business, Pfizer said it is “remaining vigilant” and “constantly conducting surveillance efforts focused on monitoring for emerging variants that potentially escape protection from our vaccine.”

“As always, we will continue to follow the science as we examine the best approaches to protecting people against COVID-19,” Pfizer stated.

“In the event that vaccine-escape variant emerges, Pfizer and BioNTech expect to be able to develop and produce a tailor-made vaccine against that variant in approximately 100 days, subject to regulatory approval.”

Previously, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla stated that the companies would be able to develop a new vaccine within the same time frame.

“So far, data saw that none of the existing variant strains has escaped the protection provided by our vaccine. I repeat none.  Not one,” he added while at the White House.

“Still, we have built a process to develop, within 100 days, a new vaccine if needed.  God forbid.”

Earlier this week, a spokesperson for BioNTech told FOX Business that it has begun an investigation into the variant.

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“The variant differs significantly from previously observed variants as it has additional mutations located in the spike protein. We expect more data from the laboratory tests in two weeks at the latest. These data will provide more information about whether B.1.1.529 could be an escape variant that may require an adjustment of our vaccine if the variant spreads globally,” the spokesperson stated.

According to the company, “Pfizer and BioNTech have taken actions months ago to be able to adapt the mRNA vaccine within six weeks and ship initial batches within 100 days in the event of an escape variant. To that end, the companies have begun clinical trials with variant-specific vaccines (alpha and delta) to collect safety and tolerability data that can be provided to regulators as part of the blueprint studies in the event of [a] needed variant-specific vaccine.”

FOX Business also reported that Johnson & Johnson is evaluating the efficacy of its Janssen vaccine against B.1.1.529.

“We are closely monitoring newly emerging COVID-19 virus strains with variations in the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and are already testing the effectiveness of our vaccine against the new and rapidly spreading variant first detected in southern Africa,” a spokesperson wrote in a Friday email. “We remain steadfast in the benefit the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine will provide to millions around the world.”

The delta variant has proven to be the most transmittable form of COVID-19. In total, it represents 99% of sequences available through the largest public database in the world.

Israel, Botswana, and Hong Kong have also detected the new variant. In response to this potential spread of the virus, world health leaders — disregarding WHO guidance — implemented travel restrictions on Friday.

Many new variants of the coronavirus, including those containing potentially dangerous mutations, die out with its spread.

The scientific community watches for changes that may make viruses more transmissible or deadly, but figuring out what exactly is dangerous takes time.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said in an interview on CNN’s “New Day” on Friday that the United States and South Africa worked together on determining whether this variant could overcome the immune system.

Kenny Polcari, Chief Market Strategist for Slatestone Wealth, spoke on the markets as fears grow about a new COVID variant and gave out advice to investors to remain calm.

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“Because, when you look at a mutation, it can give you a hint or a prediction that it might evade the immune response. What you need to do is you need to get that particular sequence of the virus, put it in a form in the lab where you can actually test the different antibodies. So, you can have a prediction that it might evade or you can actually prove it. Right now, we’re getting the material together with our South African colleagues to get a situation where you could actually directly test it,” he explained.

“So right now you’re talking about sort of like a red flag that this might be an issue but we don’t know,” the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) director said, addressing “New Day” co-host Brianna Keilar. “Once you test it, you’ll know for sure whether or not it does or does not evade the antibodies that we make, for example against the virus through a vaccine or following convalescing after you get infected. When you get antibodies, do those antibodies protect you against this new virus? The answer is we don’t know right now but we’re going to find out for sure.”

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