New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: With the emergence of a new variant of COVID-19 named Omicron in South Africa, many countries across the globe have become alert in advance to avoid giving passage to the variant. Concerns have increased manifold, as the new variant is said to be more contagious with higher mutations. Amid fears of the transmission of this various, several governments have imposed travel and other restrictions to control its spread. At the same time, the authorities are also working on vaccinating more and more people against the virus.

However, the severity of the Omicron variant has raised a question in the minds of people of whether vaccines are effective against the variant and how will it affect the vaccination drive.

Are vaccines effective against Omicron?

Explaining the effectiveness of vaccines against the variant, the World Health Organisation in its bulletin said that it is currently studying the impact of the variant on the existing vaccines. It also added that the current vaccines are effective in reducing severe disease and death, including those caused by the Delta variant.

"WHO is working with technical partners to understand the potential impact of this variant on our existing countermeasures, including vaccines. Vaccines remain critical to reducing severe disease and death, including against the dominant circulating variant, Delta. Current vaccines remain effective against severe disease and death."

What do scientists say?

Scientists have also purported that the Omicron variant would affect countries more severely where fewer people are vaccinated. Gideon Schreiber and a team of virologists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, argued that the variant is potentially capable of evading some of the body’s immune defences, blunting the efficacy of the vaccines. This means that the Omicron variant could also affect the vaccination drives.

What are the vaccine manufacturers saying?

Several vaccine manufacturers, like WHO, have also said they are studying the new variant Omicron. Here's a look at their responses:

Moderna's response

Moderna's chief medical officer said he suspects the new omicron variant may elude current vaccines. However, if it happens, a reformulated shot could be available early in the new year, reported Bloomberg.

Pfizer and BioNTech's response

"We understand the concern of experts and have immediately initiated investigations on variant B.1.1.529,' said BioNTech in a statement, as quoted by the Guardian.

AstraZeneca's response

AstraZeneca is examining the impact of new COVID variant on the vaccine, antibody cocktail, news agency Reuters reported.

Johnson & Johnson's response

Johnson & Johnson has announced plans to test its vaccination against the new variant of concern along with BioNTech and AstraZeneca.

Novavax's response

Novavax is also working on developing a new vaccine that targets the new variant. "Novavax Inc (NVAX.O) said on Friday it had started working on a version of its COVID-19 vaccine to target the variant detected in South Africa and would have the shot ready for testing and manufacturing in the next few weeks," reported Reuters

Posted By: Sugandha Jha