And with the arrival of this new variant all the depressingly familiar potential pain points come tumbling back — along with some brand-spanking new ones.
On Thanksgiving (just nine days ago) we could really believe that COVID was winding down. Yes there was Delta and hot spots, but we were on a path. Then on Black Friday, (giving new meaning to the day) Omicron hit, and soon after cases all over the U.S.
We don’t know what Omicron means for us yet — other than maybe cancelling a holiday trip to Europe, (as my family is contemplating right now). The ambiguity is excruciating: How fatal is Omicron? How contagious? How resistant to vaccines? We’re even uncertain how to pronounce it, (either way: “OH-mee-kraan” or “AH-muh-kraan”). For millions around the world the stakes could be deadly.
Consider too, the people in the business of making COVID-19 vaccines. Talk about going into scramble-the-jets mode. Like us, these scientists and executives were beginning to get into a routine. Only instead of settling into a back-to-work cadence and taking real vacations again, they were finding a rhythm of rollout and deployment for their COVID fighting medicines.
Now they may have to reconfigure everything to fight Omicron. Fortunately, when it comes to Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines at least, (such those from Pfizer and Moderna), adaptability is at the very core of the science. Still it will be a pretty major pivot.
Just to give you an idea, in an interview with the Financial Times this week, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel predicted existing vaccines will struggle with Omicron. “There is no world, I think, where [the effectiveness] is the same level … we had with [the] Delta [variant],” Bancel said. “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.’”
On the other hand, Yahoo Finance’s Anjalee Khemlani, (who’s been doing an awesome job covering all things COVID-19 for us), points out here that Pfizer (PFE) CEO Albert Bourla and partner BioNTech (BNTX) CEO Uğur Şahin both expressed confidence in their vaccine against Omicron.