Morderna (MRNA) - Get Moderna, Inc. Report shares surged higher in pre-market trading Monday as the drugmaker insisted it could develop a new vaccine capable of combating the new Omicron variant early in the new year.
Scientists and health officials have yet to determine if the variant, first identified in South Africa, is resistant to current vaccines structures, with the World Health Organization cautioning that it could take "several weeks" to assess its full potential.
The variant carries a spike protein -- the basis for infection -- that is vastly different to that which current vaccines are designed to neutralize, health authorities have said, and is mutating quickly.
Cases thus far have been reported in Australia, Hong Kong, Israel, France, Italy, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands, with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, warning Sunday that a U.S. infection case is 'inevitable".
Chief Medical Officer Paul Burton, however, told the BBC Sunday that Omicron, first identified in South Africa, may not be affected by current vaccine structures, adding that it may take "a couple of weeks" before that can be determined.
“If we have to make a brand new vaccine, I think that’s going to be early 2022 before that’s really going to be available in large quantities,” Burton said.
Pfizer's (PFE) - Get Pfizer Inc. Report German-based vaccine partner, BioNTech (BNTX) - Get BioNTech SE Report, meanwhile, said late Friday that data from lab tests, which are expected in about two weeks, "will provide more information about whether (Omicron) could be an escape variant that may require an adjustment of our vaccine if the variant spreads globally.'
Moderna shares were marked 9.7% higher in early Monday trading to change hand at $361.70 each while Pfizer jumped 2.5% to $55each.
Britain has called for an emergency meeting of G7 health officials for Monday, with President Joe Biden expected to give an update on the U.S. response effort later today.
Travel restrictions, thus far, have largely focused on South Africa, the origin of the new variant, and neighboring countries, with a U.S ban on entry from those nations set to begin later this evening.