Moderna warns Omicron variant effectiveness likely not effective

Moderna warns Omicron variant effectiveness likely not effective

HONG KONG: Drugmaker Moderna set off fresh alarm bells in financial markets on Tuesday, November 30 as the firm's chief warned that COVID- 19 vaccines are unlikely to be as effective against the Omicron variant as they were against the Delta version.

The Australian currency hit a year low and Nikkei gave up its gains as Stephane Bancel said that vaccine resistance could lead to more sickness and hospitalisations, prolonging the epidemic.

Moderna CEO Bancel told the Financial Times that there was no world where the effectiveness was the same level we had with Delta.

I think it's going to be a material drop. I don't know how much data we need to wait for the data. But all the scientists I've talked to are like 'this is not going to be good', Bancel said.

The World Health Organization WHO said Omicron carries a very high risk of infection surges and has triggered global alarm, with border closures casting doubt on a nascent economic recovery from a two-year epidemic.

On Friday, the news of its emergence wiped out US $2 trillion of the value of global stocks, although some calm was restored this week as investors waited for more data on the characteristics of Omicrons.

President Joe Biden's comments that the US would not reinstate lockdowns had helped soothe markets before comments from the Moderna chief spooked investors.

Biden wants to get a booster shot, while the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged everyone aged 18 years and older to get a booster shot. Britain has expanded its COVID-19 booster programme because of Omicron fears.

Fear of the new variant has prompted countries around the world to tighten border controls to prevent a repeat of last year's strict lockdowns and economic downturns.

Hong Kong authorities have expanded the ban on entry for non-residents from several countries. It said non-residents from Angola, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Zambia would not be allowed to enter until Nov 30.

Non-residents who have been in Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Israel and Italy in the past 21 days would not be allowed to enter the city from December 2, it added.

Non-residents arriving from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe have already been banned from the global financial hub, which has been pursuing a zero-COVID strategy.

In Australia, five travellers tested positive for Omicron.

They are vaccinated and are in quarantine, officials said, adding that they are asymptomatic or display very mild symptoms.

Singapore's health ministry said two travellers from Johannesburg who had tested positive for the variant in Sydney had passed through the Changi airport.

Australian authorities also identified a sixth traveller who was most likely to have been infected with the variant and had spent time in the community.

Canberra was delayed on Monday the reopening of the nation's borders for international students and skilled migrants, less than 36 hours before they were due to be allowed back in.

The Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said at a media conference that while Omicron is an emerging variant, it is a manageable variant.