Gintsburg: omicron sample not needed to adapt vaccine against COVID-19
It is possible to create a vaccine adapted to a new coronavirus variant without a sample of a new strain, including Omicron, if a nucleotide sequence of the virus is known, Director of the Gamaleya National Research Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology of the Russian Health Ministry Alexander Gintsburg said.
Earlier, Head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) Kirill Dmitriev said that the developers of Russian Sputnik V and Sputnik Light vaccines against coronavirus would be able, if necessary, to deliver hundreds of millions of doses of vaccines adapted to the Omicron strain by the end of February 2022. According to the RDIF, the Gamaleya Center has already begun the development of the new versions of its vaccines.
"It is possible to do (to adapt a vaccine), one needs to know the sequence, it is synthesized. <...> We made a new sequence on the basis of a new nucleotide sequence which was published like we did for all previous strains that are held in test tubes in a fridge," TASS cited him as saying.
He added that the Gamaleya Center doesn’t have the Omicron sample yet. "I am expecting [it] from the Health Ministry or when we will have an infected person, then we’ll isolate it. This is how all our collections are replenished," the scientist explained.
Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) designated the B.1.1.529 variant identified in South Africa as a "Variant of Concern" and assigned it the Greek letter Omicron. In its statement, the WHO noted that "this variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning." Several changes at once in the spike protein can potentially hinder the neutralization of the pathogen by antibodies which may impact the effectiveness of vaccines. Additionally, according to preliminary reports, the mutation is much more transmissible.