Russia on Monday said that its Sputnik V and Sputnik Light covid-19 vaccines will “neutralise” the new heavily mutated ‘Omicron’ variant of the virus as major pharmacies rush to test their jabs for it. The Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, best known internationally for developing the earliest vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, said that it believes that Sputnik V has “highest efficacy vs other mutations”.
The official Twitter handle of the Sputnik V shared a statement of K Dmitriev, CEO of the Russin Direct Investment Fund, where he said, “Gamaleya Inst believes Sputnik V & Light will neutralize #Omicron as they have highest efficacy vs other mutations. In unlikely case a modification is needed, we will provide several hundred million of Sputnik Omicron boosters by Feb 20, 2022 (SIC).
Amid growing concerns over Omicron, former Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) scientist Dr Raman Gangakhedkar told News18 that vaccines may provide only partial protection against the new ‘heavily mutated’ variant of SARS-CoV-2.
The epidemiologist, who was the face of the country’s apex medical research agency during government briefings on Covid-19 last year, said the surveillance of the new variant, which was detected in Botswana in southern Africa, will not be difficult if the government re-up its ante in testing, tracing, tracking and isolation.
Gangakhedkar emphasised that public has an important role to play by following the basic rules of wearing masks, maintaining hand hygiene and social distancing.
“Omicron is going to hunt all those who are vulnerable or non-vaccinated,” he told News18.com.
Meanwhile, medical experts, including the WHO, warned against any overreaction before the variant was better understood. But a jittery world feared the worst nearly two years after the tenacious virus emerged and triggered a pandemic that has killed more than 5 million people around the globe.
The new heavily mutated Covid-19 spreads quickly and causes severe disease or decrease the effectiveness of vaccines or treatments. The last coronavirus variant to receive this label was delta, which now accounts for virtually all Covid cases in the United States.
“Researchers found more than 30 mutations on a protein, called spike, on the surface of the omicron
coronavirus. The spike protein is the chief target of antibodies that the immune system produces to fight a Covid-19 infection. So many mutations raised concerns that omicron’s spike might be able to evade antibodies produced by either a previous infection or a vaccine,” a report in New York Times said.
However, vaccines are still expected to provide some protection against omicron as they stimulate not only antibodies but immune cells that can attack infected cells.
Novavax Inc said on Friday it had started working on a version of its COVID-19 vaccine to target the variant detected in South Africa and would have the shot ready for testing and manufacturing in the next few weeks.
In a statement on Friday, Moderna said the combination of mutations in the variant “represents a significant potential risk to accelerate the waning of natural and vaccine-induced immunity.” “A booster dose of an authorized vaccine represents the only currently available strategy for boosting waning immunity,” Moderna said, adding that it will test three booster candidates against omicron, including at a higher dosage level.
Meanwhile, BioNTech SE said on Friday it expects more data on a worrying new coronavirus variant detected in South Africa within two weeks to help determine whether its vaccine produced with partner Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) would have to be reworked.
“We understand the concern of experts and have immediately initiated investigations on variant B.1.1.529,” the companies said.