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Effectiveness Drop Anticipated

Stéphane Bancel, the CEO of Moderna, has told the Financial Times that current SARS-CoV-2 vaccines may be less effective against the Omicron variant.

"I think it's going to be a material drop. I just don't know how much because we need to wait for the data. But all the scientists I've talked to … are like, 'This is not going to be good,'" he tells it.

Omicron, which has been labeled a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization, was only identified recently by scientists in South Africa, who raised the alarm about it. The variant, according to the Los Angeles Times, has more than 50 mutations.

Bancel adds at CNBC's Squawk Box that because so many of the mutations affect the viral spike protein, which is targeted by SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, he expects there will be a decline in vaccine efficacy. He notes, though, that vaccines "provide you not one or two antibodies, but a soup of antibodies and so some antibodies will still be protective neutralizing antibodies, even if you have a mutation."

Bancel tells FT that more will be known about how vaccines fare against Omicron in about two weeks, though notes it would be months before an Omicron-specific vaccine could be produced at scale.