Are Indian vaccines effective against Omicron? Here's what manufacturers say
The COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers in India are reportedly waiting for "more data" on the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, to assess the efficacy of their vaccines. It is likely to take "several weeks" to ascertain whether vaccines are effective against Omicron, sources at the Serum Institute of India (SII), Bharat Biotech, and Zydus Cadila told CNN-News18.
Why does this story matter?
It is feared that the Omicron variant may have the ability of immune escape, rendering vaccines ineffective. Omicron is said to be the most heavily mutated strain of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 detected so far. American vaccine-maker Moderna had said Tuesday that its COVID-19 vaccine is unlikely to be as effective against Omicron as the other variants.
'High chances' that COVAXIN remains effective
There are "high chances" that COVAXIN may work against Omicron, a senior official at vaccine maker Bharat Biotech told CNN-News18. "COVAXIN was developed against the original Wuhan variant... it has shown that it can work against other variants, including Delta," the official said. New research over the new variant is also ongoing, the official added.
Need to wait and watch: SII official
It is "too early" to ascertain whether Covishield (Oxford/AstraZeneca formulation) is effective against Omicron or requires tweaking, an SII official said. We need to wait and watch for several weeks, they said. Oxford Vaccine Group Director Andrew Pollard recently told BBC the existing vaccine should work against Omicron. It will take up to three weeks to see if Omicron evades current vaccinations, Pollard said.
Closely monitoring global data: Zydus Cadila
Officials at vaccine manufacturer Zydus Cadila said they are "closely monitoring" the global data on Omicron. Its COVID-19 vaccine ZyCoV-D uses "plug and play technology," which allows the vaccine to be easily tweaked to provide protection against mutations, they said. "We need to do an easy tweaking if the situation demands it," they added.
Now, new vaccines could come up sooner
Meanwhile, India's top officials said the platforms and processes of developing new vaccines or tweaking existing ones are "well-oiled." Hence, a new product could be launched quickly if the requirement arises, they said.
What do global manufacturers say?
Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel had recently said existing vaccines would be significantly less effective against Omicron. Pfizer is tailoring its mRNA vaccine to specifically target the new variant. Johnson & Johnson also said it is are "pursuing an Omicron-specific variant vaccine." Meanwhile, Sputnik-manufacturer, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), said it is developing an adapted booster against Omicron.