He is the man who conducted the research on the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine against the coronavirus. Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, told the BBC on Saturday that a new serum could be developed “very quickly” against the Omicron variant.
It is “extremely unlikely” that this new variant will spread strongly within the vaccinated population, “as we saw last year” with the Delta variant. But if this were the case, “it would be possible to act very quickly”, because “the processes of developing a new vaccine are increasingly well-oiled”. However, he believes that the current vaccines should work against the new strain deemed “worrying” by the WHO, but that this would only be certain in the coming weeks.
Cases in Germany, Belgium …
No case of the Omicron variant has yet been detected in the United Kingdom, one of the countries in Europe most bereaved by the virus with more than 144,500 dead. The government, however, on Thursday announced severe restrictions on passengers from six African countries, including South Africa, where the variant was first detected.
In Europe, a case linked to the Omicron variant has so far been discovered in Belgium and another in Germany. About sixty people who tested positive on their return from South Africa are also worrying the Netherlands, but it has not yet been confirmed that they are carrying the new variant. The latter has also been identified in Malawi, Israel on a person from Malawi, Botswana and Hong Kong.
Confident vaccine makers
In a statement, AstraZeneca said it has “developed, in close collaboration with the University of Oxford, a vaccine platform that allows us to respond quickly to new variants that may appear”. The British pharmaceutical company announced that it was “already conducting research in the places where the variant has been identified”.
Vaccine makers Pfizer / BioNTech, Moderna and Novavax have also expressed confidence in their ability to combat the Omicron strain.