Washington: Amid concerns around the newly identified and highly transmissible COVID-19 variant of concern, the US pharmaceutical company Moderna has announced that it will develop a booster shot against the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Moderna in a statement said that it is working to advance a booster candidate tailored to the new variant and has also been testing a higher dose of its existing booster and to study other booster candidates designed to protect against multiple variants.
"The mutations in the Omicron variant are concerning and for several days, we have been moving as fast as possible to execute our strategy to address this variant," said Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel.
The World Health Organisation on Friday declared the recently-discovered B.1.1.529 strain of COVID-19, first detected in southern Africa, to be a variant of concern and renamed it Omicron.
The variant is believed to have originated in South Africa (on November 24, according to WHO) and brought on a fresh surge of infections. The WHO said that the first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on November 9.
Omicron has now been seen in travellers to Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel as well as in southern Africa.
Early evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection compared with other highly transmissible variants, according to the WHO. That means people who contracted Covid-19 and recovered could be subject to catching it again.
Tightening the vigil, many countries including the UK, Singapore and India have imposed curbs on international flights.
India on Friday added several countries to the list from where travellers would need to follow additional measures on arrival in India, including post-arrival testing for infection.
Meanwhile, stock markets and oil prices plunged on fears surrounding the variant, potentially dealing a heavy blow to the global economic recovery.