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How Moderna and Pfizer vaccines could rapidly update their vaccines for Omicron

If the Omicron variant of the coronavirus is different enough from the original variant, it is possible that existing vaccines will not be as effective as they have been. If so, it is likely that companies will need to update their vaccines to better fight omicron. Deborah Fuller is a microbiologist who has been studying mRNA and DNA vaccines for over two decades. Here she explains why vaccines might need to be updated and what that process would look like.

1. Why might vaccines need to be updated?
Basically, it is a question of whether a virus has changed enough so that antibodies created by the original vaccine are no longer able to recognise and fend off the new mutated variant.

Coronaviruses use spike proteins to attach to ACE-2 receptors on the surface of human cells and infect them. All mRNA Covid-19 vaccines work by giving instructions in the form of mRNA that direct cells to make a harmless version of the spike protein. This spike protein then induces the human body to produce antibodies.

If a person is then ever exposed to the coronavirus, these antibodies bind to the coronavirus’s spike protein and thus interfere with its ability to infect that person’s cells.

The Omicron variant contains a new pattern of mutations to its spike…

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