• Scientists in South Africa report that the Omicron variant seems to be more transmissible than other versions of the coronavirus. Source

• The African Vaccine Acquisition Trust, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and COVAX issue a joint statement on vaccine donations to Africa, and other COVAX participating economies. Their statement recognized the importance of donations, but noted that most of the 90 million donated doses had a short shelf life, and were provided with little notice, making it difficult for countries to plan campaigns and increase their absorptive capacity, saying “…this trend must change.” The statement calls for donors and vaccine manufacturers to adhere to standards (quality and predictability, that doses should be un-earmarked for greatest effectiveness and to support long-term planning, a minimum 10 weeks shelf life, four weeks of notice before donations arrive, rapid responses to requests for essential information and including freight costs and other essential ancillaries, such as syringes and dilutant) as of 1 January 2022. Source

Endpoints reports that mRNA vaccine-makers Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech have released statements on Omicron. Pfizer and BioNtech are waiting for more data on the variant, which should become available within with two weeks, adding that they “…have taken actions months ago to be able to adapt the mRNA vaccine within 6 weeks and ship initial batches within 100 days in the event of an escape variant.” Stéphane Bancel, Moderna‘s CEO, said the company’s Omicron strategy includes “…three lines of defense that we are advancing in parallel: we have already evaluated a higher dose booster of mRNA-1273 (100 µg), second, we are already studying two multi-valent booster candidates in the clinic that were designed to anticipate mutations such as those that have emerged in the Omicron variant and data is expected in the coming weeks, and third, we are rapidly advancing a Omicron-specific booster candidate (mRNA-1273.529).” Source

• WHO announces that it is establishing an intergovernmental negotiating body to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, which will meet on or before 1 March 2022. Source

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