November 27. Pfizer said it will be able to manufacture and distribute an updated version of its COVID-19 vaccine within 100 days if the new variant Omicron is found to be resistant to its current vaccine.
The variant itself has multiple mutations that might make it easier for it to evade antibodies that developed in the body after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. The mutations might also cause the variant to spread easily — even among vaccinated people.
The World Health Organization has labeled Omicron a “variant of concern,” a distinction given to the most threatening coronavirus variants. Delta, the variant that surged all throughout the summer in the US, was the last one to receive the label.
It’s not clear yet whether existing COVID-19 vaccines will protect against the variant. But vaccine manufacturers like Pfizer are already considering their options.
“Pfizer and BioNTech have taken actions months ago to be able to adapt the mRNA vaccine within six weeks and ship initial batches within 100 days in the event of an escape variant,” the company said in a statement.
Pfizer expects to know within two weeks whether the variant is resistant to its current vaccine, a company spokesperson told Reuters.