Moderna's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Paul Burton has predicted a "couple of weeks of uncertainty" with the emergence of the Omicron Covid-19 variant, and he said the company would be able to move "very fast" in producing a variant-specific vaccine.
"There are three questions we really need answers to: How transmissible is this variant, how severe is it and will the antibodies that are produced in response to the current vaccines effective?" he told CNN.
Moderna said Friday that the new Omicron variant represents a "significant potential risk" to the efficacy of its Covid-19 vaccine as well as immunity reached naturally, due to its mutations.
Burton said everyone who hasn't been vaccinated in the US should get their shots now, and those who have been vaccinated should get booster shots.
Moderna has been testing variant-specific boosters over the summer, Burton said, and the company is already working on one for the Omicron variant.
"We can move very fast, we think weeks to within two to three months, we would be able to have an Omicron-specific vaccine booster available for testing and then for administration. So this is going to go at the fastest possible speed. But we have to do careful science now. We don't want to misstep," he said.
Burton said he expects Covid-19 to be an "endemic disease that will need regular boosting."
Omicron is "a new wrench thrown" into the fight against Covid-19, he said
"We have to see what data comes out in the next couple weeks," Burton added.
When asked about vaccine inequity, Burton said Moderna is producing 110 million doses for African nations through the World Health Organization's vaccine-sharing program COVAX, adding "we're trying to do everything we can to balance where the burden of disease is."