Omicron vaccine could be ready by early 2022

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Moderna said it might release an updated covid-19 vaccine to protect against the new covid-19 Omicron variant. 

This comes as scientists and health officials warn that the variant first detected in South Africa could easily spread across the world. So far it has been detected in Europe, Asia, North America and the UK. 

The World Health Organization on Friday labeled Omicron a “variant of concern,” a category given to the most threatening covid-19 variants. The last to receive this label was the Delta variant.  It is not yet clear whether existing COVID-19 vaccines will protect against the variant, but vaccine manufacturers have already begun considering their options.

In a news release on Friday, Moderna said that they are testing its current vaccine against the Omicron variant. 

So far scientists have found that the variant contains 30 mutations to the spike protein that allows the virus to enter the body. Warning that many of these mutations could lead to increased antibody resistance and transmissibility, officials said this may reduce the effectiveness of existing Covid vaccines.

Pfizer also said it will be able to manufacture and distribute an updated version of its COVID-19 vaccine within 100 days once the variant is found to be resistant to its current vaccine.

President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday that Omicron is responsible for the majority of the 2,300 new cases per day in the Gauteng area of South Africa. New infections have more than quadrupled in the last week across the country, and the percentage of tests positive has risen from 2% to 9%.