The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of Moderna, Paul Burton has disclosed that the vaccine maker could roll out a reformulated vaccine against the new Omicron variant early next year (2022).

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus which was discovered last week, initially in Southern Africa has now begun to spread to other parts of the world including North America and the concern over this new variant has resulted in border controls and market crashes as well as other market reactions.

During the statement on Sunday, there were no indications of whether new formulations will be needed, or if the current Covid vaccine shots will be effective to protect against the new variant that has begun to spread around the globe.

What Moderna is saying

The CMO of Moderna said, “We should know about the ability of the current vaccine to provide protection in the next couple of weeks, but the remarkable thing about the MRNA vaccines, Moderna platform is that we can move very fast”.

“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 added.

The drug company disclosed in a statement that hundreds of workers have been mobilized starting early Thursday morning, on Thanksgiving, to start studying the new variant.

According to Burton, current vaccines could provide some protection, depending on how long ago a person was injected. Despite this, unvaccinated people should get vaccinated or receive their booster shots, if eligible, he said.

Financial Implications

It is not clear if the drugmaker would need to make brand new vaccines to fight against the new Omicron variant, however, if it turns out to be necessary, more funding would be required.

It is unclear what the cost of making a new vaccine would be but the company, Moderna, could be needing funds from the U.S government to achieve this. As at April 2021, the United States government had paid Moderna $6 billion for vaccine effort so far.

What you should know

The Omicron has been classified as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization, meaning it is more contagious, more virulent or more skilled at evading public health measures, vaccines and therapeutics. The variant contains 30 mutations to the spike protein that allows the virus to enter the body. Officials have warned that many of these mutations could lead to increased antibody resistance and transmissibility, which could limit the effectiveness of existing Covid vaccines.