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Head of Moderna warns effectiveness of jabs on Omicron is probably 'not going to be good'

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Head of Moderna warns effectiveness of jabs on Omicron is probably ‘not going to be good’ as three more variant cases are confirmed in Scotland bringing UK total to 14 — and Boris Johnson is set to hold No10 press conference on strain TODAY

  • The Prime Minister will address the nation about compulsory face masks
  • Scotland confirmed three more cases of the Omicron variant today, officials said
  • Some 14 infections have been spotted in the UK to date, most linked to travel 

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The head of Moderna today warned vaccines may struggle against the new Omicron variant as three more cases were confirmed in Scotland — and Boris Johnson announced a Downing Street press conference for this afternoon. 

Stephane Bancel, who leads the vaccine manufacturer, said it would take another two weeks before scientists knew how effective jabs were against the mutant strain.

But he said: ‘All the scientists I’ve talked to … are like “this is not going to be good”.’

Experts have already warned vaccines may be less effective at preventing infections with Omicron, but said they should still be effective against hospitalisations and deaths.

Scottish health authorities said today they had confirmed one further case in Lanarkshire, and two more in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area.

It means there are 14 Omicron cases in the UK to date, including some with no links to foreign travel suggesting the strain may already be spreading in the community. 

Boris Johnson will today hold a Downing Street press conference this afternoon over the new Omicron variant.

The Prime Minister is set to address the nation about compulsory face masks — which are now compulsory in shops and on public transport — and to urge Britons to get their boosters.  

Britain’s vaccine advisory panel yesterday extended the booster drive to all over-18s and halved the gap from the second dose to three months.

But figures suggest that should the drive continue at the current rate everyone will not get their booster until winter is almost over.

Scotland and Wales yesterday demanded Mr Johnson extends self-isolation rules for arrivals to eight days, regardless of whether they test negative. But the PM’s official spokesman has slapped down the suggestions saying it would harm the travel industry. 

Boris Johnson will hold a Downing Street press conference this afternoon on the Omicron variant after new rules came into force in England

Boris Johnson will hold a Downing Street press conference this afternoon on the Omicron variant after new rules came into force in England

The Botswana variant has around 50 mutations and more than 30 of them are on the spike protein. The current crop of vaccines trigger the body to recognise the version of the spike protein from older versions of the virus. But the mutations may make the spike protein look so different that the body's immune system struggles to recognise it and fight it off. And three of the spike mutations (H665Y, N679K, P681H) help it enter the body's cells more easily. Meanwhile, it is missing a membrane protein (NSP6) which was seen in earlier iterations of the virus, which experts think could make it more infectious. And it has two mutations (R203K and G204R) that have been present in all variants of concern so far and have been linked with infectiousness

The Botswana variant has around 50 mutations and more than 30 of them are on the spike protein. The current crop of vaccines trigger the body to recognise the version of the spike protein from older versions of the virus. But the mutations may make the spike protein look so different that the body’s immune system struggles to recognise it and fight it off. And three of the spike mutations (H665Y, N679K, P681H) help it enter the body’s cells more easily. Meanwhile, it is missing a membrane protein (NSP6) which was seen in earlier iterations of the virus, which experts think could make it more infectious. And it has two mutations (R203K and G204R) that have been present in all variants of concern so far and have been linked with infectiousness 

Vaccine-makers Moderna and Pfizer are already working on Covid vaccines that could tackle the Omicron strain, if it poses a problem for the current crop of vaccines, and they could be ready in the first half of 2022

Vaccine-makers Moderna and Pfizer are already working on Covid vaccines that could tackle the Omicron strain, if it poses a problem for the current crop of vaccines, and they could be ready in the first half of 2022

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