• Moderna’s Chief Medical Officer, Paul Burton, says he suspects that new Omicron variant may elude current vaccines, and if so, a reformulated shot could be available early in the new year, adding “We should know about the ability of the current vaccine to provide protection in the next couple of weeks. The remarkable thing about the mRNA vaccines, the Moderna platform, is that we can move very fast ….The company has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to advance new candidates to clinical testing in 60 to 90 days.” Source

• Data modeling from researchers at Peking University predicts that switching from China’s current “COVID zero” to a much less restricted US-style approach would lead to as many as 637,155 infections a day, according to their study, which was published by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Source

• Omicron has spread to at least a has been spotted in at least a dozen countries, including Britain and the Netherlands. Experts from South Africa report that cases appear to be mild so far, but they caution that most cases are in unvaccinated young people, who are unlikely to become severely ill – and that it takes time for COVID-19 to progress to severe disease and hospitalization. Source

• Hugo de Jonge, the Netherlands health minister, announces that 13 of the 61 cases of COVID-19 among passengers who arrived on twos flight from South Africa, were caused by the Omicron variant. More cases have been identified in Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, and France. Source

• The New York Times reports on barriers to vaccination across Africa, where only 10 percent of the population have been given a single vaccine dose. Initially, the continent faced lack of access to coronavirus vaccines; now that they are starting to arrive, albeit slowly (only 14 percent of the 1.7 billion vaccines promised to low-and middle-income countries have been delivered), scale-up brings its own challenges. Countries may need more than vaccines, such as support for creating and maintaining the cold chain, increasing cold storage facilities, improving underfunded and understaffed healthcare facilities, and expediting delivery of vaccines that arrive near to their expiry. On the individual level, people may be unable to miss work; it may not be possible for them to pay for transportation to vaccination sites, where they may have to wait in long lines – and misinformation about vaccine safety continues to circulate. Source

• Israel, Japan and Morocco ban all foreign travelers in response to Omicron. Source

• Dr. Tulio de Oliveira, a geneticist at the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine in Durban, says that if companies develop Omicron-specific vaccines, companies need to make them available to African countries that need them the most, and are least able to afford them. Pfizer had no response to a question about providing low-cost vaccines in Africa. Dr Stephen Hoge, Moderna’s president, who described Omicron as ““…a Frankenstein mix of all of the greatest hits,” noting that the company has already agreed to deliver 110 million doses, at $7 each, to the African Union, which is home to 1,387,570,327 people  – over 16 percent of the world’s population, an amount that he described as “…hopefully is useful.” Source

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