BERLIN

BioNTech confirmed on Monday that it has started to work on a potential new vaccine against the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

A company spokesperson told Anadolu Agency that they are investigating the new variant to understand whether it escapes the existing vaccines, and at the same time they are working on a potential new version of their COVID-19 vaccine.

“The first steps of developing a new vaccine overlap with the research necessary in order to evaluate whether a new shot will be needed,” Jasmina Alatovic said in an email statement, adding that this work already started last Thursday.

She said this has been a standard procedure after the emergence of such variants, as they are in a race against time.

The omicron variant, which was first detected in southern Africa, is classified as “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization, as scientists detected more than 30 mutations on the spike protein.

It is not yet clear whether omicron is more transmissible, causing more severe disease, or more resistant to the current jabs, and preliminary results from the current studies are expected to come out in two weeks.

BioNTech, founded by Turkish immigrants to Germany, and its US partner Pfizer said last week that they will be able to produce and distribute a new version of their COVID-19 vaccine within nearly 100 days if medical studies conclude that the current jabs are less effective against the new variant.

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