The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) director confirmed on Dec. 5 that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is discussing how to streamline the authorization of an Omicron-specific COVID-19 vaccine.
During an interview with ABC News, Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that vaccine makers Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson have told the agency that “they can all do this fairly quickly within three months … but then you have FDA approval.”
The FDA, she said, is “already in conversations about streamlining the authorization of this, of an Omicron-specific vaccine, partially because much of the vaccine is actually exactly the same, and really, it would just be that mRNA code that would have to change.”
Without elaborating on the nature of the discussions, Walensky said that “those conversations are ongoing, and certainly, [the] FDA will move swiftly and CDC will move swiftly right thereafter.”
Should an Omicron-specific vaccine be developed, it’s not clear if the CDC or FDA will recommend that shot over the common COVID-19 vaccines that are currently in use.
About 15 U.S. states so far have confirmed at least one case of Omicron, Walensky told ABC News, adding that currently, “we know we have several dozen cases and we’re following them closely.” The Delta variant makes up most COVID-19 cases, she said.
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin have confirmed cases so far, according to an Epoch Times analysis.
Walensky in her interview also didn’t make mention of reports from South Africa and Israel that indicated that Omicron may present milder symptoms than the Delta variant. A preprint study released over the weekend said the variant might have picked up genetic material from the common cold.
Dr. Angelique Coetzee of the South African Medical Association was cited in media reports as saying that patients with Omicron have had relatively minor symptoms, characterizing them as “unusual but mild.”
“It presents mild disease, with symptoms being sore muscles and tiredness for a day or two not feeling well,” Coetzee said.
No deaths associated with Omicron have been reported anywhere in the world.
Since the emergence of the Omicron variant, which controversially was named by the World Health Organization last week, it’s put public health officials on edge. Travel bans have already been imposed on several southern African nations, despite protests from the United Nations and South Africa’s leadership.
Walensky told reporters several days ago that the CDC will implement more surveillance measures at four major airports around the United States in a bid to detect incoming travelers who may have Omicron. Her agency, which published a rule last week stipulating that travelers show a negative COVID-19 test result 24 hours before the department, may also recommend more travel restrictions, she said.
Worldwide, some health officials have said it’s too soon to determine whether Omicron presents a less serious threat, as more data needs to be collected first.
COVID-19 is the illness caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.