Business

A vaccine specific to Omicron is on the way.

An updated version of the Covid-19 vaccine that targets the omicron variant is expected to arrive this year – and that could be a lifeline for some companies.

The heads of Pfizer and Moderna both discussed their work on updating vaccines that fight the coronavirus at JP Morgan’s annual healthcare conference on Monday. As has been widely reported, Pfizer’s vaccine against the omicron variant could arrive as early as March.

Meanwhile, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel noted that the Massachusetts-based pharmaceutical company was looking to create protection against multiple viruses in one fell swoop, starting with the flu. “[W]We are working on adding the flu to Covid in the same dose, then adding [respiratory syncytial virus] to Covid and flu, then adding more and more viruses, ”Bancel said at the conference on Monday. “And we really want to build the global portfolio in this one shot. ”

The first combo jab could make it possible to target the growing phenomena of “flurona” – in which a person simultaneously contracts Covid -19 and the flu.

This could help industries such as food production and airlines which continue to be affected by the omicron variant; and almost every business has to deal with seasonal flu-related absences. A combined vaccine is also more effective over time – rather than venturing out for two different injections, some populations might receive protection in a single annual vaccine.

But as we get closer to what looks like another vaccine dose this year, a reassessment is already underway – particularly in healthcare – as to what is considered fully vaccinated and how companies define this status in the future. More and more companies are now requiring workers to be fully immunized, i.e. a booster, if they are to keep their role. Meta on Tuesday became the latest to demand that employees be boosted if they want to work on the premises.

Despite the politics, the antivaxxers and the uncertainties and frustrations added by the omicron wave, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said there was still reason to be optimistic. “I think we are in a much better place right now than a year ago,” he said, adding that “we have treatments that we have never had before.”

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