Pfizer Inc. said Tuesday that a COVID-19 vaccine that specifically targets the Omicron variant will be ready by March.
The company has already started making the new version of the vaccine, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC‘s “Squawk Box,” CBS News reported.
Omicron now accounts for more than 98% of all new COVID-19 cases in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Pfizer is also working to improve its current COVID-19 vaccine “to address any future variant of potential concern, if needed,” a company spokesperson said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch.
“In the event that a third dose with the current vaccine is not found to protect against the Omicron variant or other future variants, Pfizer expects to be able to develop and produce a tailor-made vaccine against that variant in approximately 100 days, subject to regulatory approval,” the spokesperson added.
Also on Monday, Moderna said in a statement that it’s also developing an Omicron-specific vaccine, CBS News reported.
“Given the long-term threat demonstrated by Omicron’s immune escape, Moderna will continue to develop an Omicron-specific variant vaccine that it expects to advance into clinical trials in early 2022,” the company stated.
In the meantime, booster shots remain the best defense against Omicron, experts said.
In December, White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci predicted that Omicron would become the dominant virus strain in the United States but he has not said that a new Omicron-specific shot is necessary to maintain immunity. Instead, he has urged Americans to get booster shots, which studies have started to show provide the best protection against Omicron.
A recent study from the U.K. Health Security Agency found that booster shots are up to 75% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infection caused by Omicron.
Visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for more on COVID vaccines.
SOURCES: Moderna Inc., news release, Jan. 10, 2022; CBS News