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Moderna says it’s building a COVID-19 vaccine for omicron

A new COVID-19 vaccine might be made to stop the omicron variant of the coronavirus

A box of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine booster doses.
An employee carries a box of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine booster doses at the Legacy Events Center in Farmington on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Vaccine developer Moderna said over the weekend that it is working on creating a COVID-19 vaccine that will specifically target the new omicron variant.

What is the omicron variant?

Over the weekend, researchers announced a new COVID-19 variant called B.1.1.529, which has at least 30 mutations in the spike protein and 10 mutations in the ACE2 receptor, which help the virus create an entry point to infect humans, as I wrote for the Deseret News.

  • The new variant has a “big jump in evolution” compared to other COVID-19 variants out right now, per The New York Times. In South Africa, the variant has slowly outpaced the delta variant as the region’s dominant COVID-19 variant.

Is there an omicron variant vaccine?

Not yet.

But Moderna Inc. Chief Medical Officer Paul Burton said there’s suspicion that the new variant will evade COVID-19 vaccines. If that’s the case, Moderna hopes to develop a vaccine to tackle the new variant.

  • “We should know about the ability of the current vaccine to provide protection in the next couple of weeks,” Burton said Sunday on the BBC’s “Andrew Marr Show.”
  • “If we have to make a brand-new vaccine, I think that’s going to be early 2022 before that’s really going to be available in large quantities,” he said.
  • “The remarkable thing about the mRNA vaccines, the Moderna platform, is that we can move very fast,” he said.

Does the current vaccine stop omicron?

Per Time magazine, Burton said that the current vaccine will likely still protect people against the variant. So the best tip for you to stay safe is to get vaccinated.

  • “If people are on the fence, and you haven’t been vaccinated, get vaccinated,” he said. “This is a dangerous looking virus, but I think we have many tools in our armamentarium now to fight it.”