Special vaccines against the Omikron variant: Biontech probably a step ahead of Moderna and Astrazeneca
Created: 01/03/2022, 05:11 AM
From: Astrid Theil
The major manufacturers of corona vaccines are currently working on new vaccines that provide effective protection against the Omikron variant.
© Boris Roessler / dpa
The fear of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus is great.
Accordingly, a lot of research is currently being carried out on this.
A special vaccine could also soon hit the market.
Munich - The Omikron variant of the corona virus is on the rise. The latest mutation is more of a concern for experts than the previously known variants for a number of reasons. Compared to the original type of coronavirus, Omikron has more than 30 mutations. Previous mutations had only 10 to 15 mutations. As a result, there is concern that the previous vaccines against Omikron may not be effective. There is also evidence that Omikron is much more contagious than the previously known virus variants.
For weeks, the manufacturers of the previous corona vaccines have therefore been investigating whether an adaptation of their vaccines to the new Omikron variant is necessary and are already preparing the production of new, adapted corona vaccines that promise more effective protection against the new variant. The manufacturers of the mRNA vaccines, Biontech / Pfizer and Moderna in particular, stated that their preparations can be adapted particularly quickly to virus changes. But what about the development of new vaccines?
The US manufacturer Moderna began adapting its mRNA vaccine against the Omikron variant at the end of November.
The manufacturer Astrazenca also said they are working on a new vaccine.
Together with researchers from Oxford University, the first steps have already been taken.
Biontech seems to be furthest in the production of a new vaccine against the Omikron variant.
Biontech leads in research: Omicron vaccine could come as early as March 2022
According to its own information, the company is already creating the conditions to manufacture the vaccine.
Company founder Özlem Türeci assumes that the first batches of a vaccine specifically effective against the Omikron variant can be delivered in March 2022.
Then millions of vaccine doses could already be sent.
However, the hopes have also been dampened somewhat: the previous study results are not yet a basis for being able to make “preventive decisions about the need for a vaccine adapted to Omikron”.
"We have to evaluate further laboratory data and, above all, data from practice that are expected in the next few weeks," said Türeci.
Only on the basis of this data will it be possible to see how things will proceed.
Omicron vaccine: For the time being it is still unclear whether this is even needed
Restrained words also come from Moderna's Germany managing director Gerald Wiegand. He emphasized that it had not yet been decided whether and when Moderna could bring an Omikron-specific booster vaccination onto the market. Wiegand said that a booster vaccination with the current vaccine from Moderna could increase the antibody level against Omikron - depending on the dose level - by up to 83 times. However, it is currently not clear whether this is sufficient to be able to fight Omikron. (You can also find all information about vaccine studies against Omikron here.)
But how are vaccines adapted to new virus variants?
"As soon as the genetic information about a virus variant is available - that was it at the end of November - this information will be adapted accordingly in our vaccine development," said Wiegard about the process.
According to its own statements, Biontech will first determine the blueprint for the spike protein of the new virus variant.
The mRNA for the adapted vaccination can then be created from this.
However, this process takes about six weeks.
If the result shows the expected quality characteristics, the funds could then be delivered.
Provided that the vaccines have been approved by the relevant authorities, says Biontech founder Ugur Sahin.
Authorities prepared for any necessary, rapid approval
Keyword approval authorities: How has the European Medicines Agency (EMA) commented on the production of an Omikron vaccine so far? It is currently too early to decide whether an adapted vaccine with a different composition is necessary. The EMA announced that further data on the effects of the variant on the effectiveness of the approved vaccines would first have to be determined. There is also a need for more information on transferability and mortality at Omikron.
Biontech / Pfizer were optimistic about the effectiveness of their previous vaccine.
Most recently, it was reported that, according to preliminary laboratory results, three doses of your vaccine would provide sufficient protection against the course of serious disease in the event of an infection with the Omikron variant.
Should an adjustment be necessary, approval could happen quickly.
EMA has already announced that preparations have been made for this case.
Omicron vaccine as a booster vaccination
Overall, the approval process would go faster. The reason: If the original vaccine has already been approved, the modified active ingredient does not have to go through the entire test procedure again. A clinical series of tests on the effectiveness with a smaller number of test persons is sufficient in this case. According to the companies Biontech and Moderna, they are already in constant contact with the approval authorities.
If vaccines for the Omikron variant come on the market, vaccination would start again.
It is not yet clear how exactly the vaccines could be administered in this case.
"The current concepts are in the direction of examining the possibility of boosting," emphasizes Moderna's Germany boss Wiegand.
Booster vaccinations are "the usual approach" not only for Covid-19, but also for other infectious diseases.
(at / dpa)