Moderna CEO warns COVID-19 shots less effective against Omicron, markets tumble

Moderna CEO comments on Omicron spook markets
Hong Kong bans non-resident arrivals from more countries
Australia national cabinet to meet on Tuesday
Singapore: 2 travellers to Sydney with Omicron transited Changi
Biden says variant is ’cause for concern, not a cause for panic’

Drugmaker Moderna (MRNA.O) set off fresh alarm bells in financial markets on Tuesday as the firm’s chief warned that COVID-19 vaccines are unlikely to be as effective against the Omicron variant as they have been against the Delta version.

Crude oil futures shed more than a dollar, the Australian currency hit a year low, and Nikkei gave up its gains as Stéphane Bancel’s comments spurred fears that vaccine resistance could lead to more sickness and hospitalisations, prolonging the pandemic.

“There is no world, I think, where (the effectiveness) is the same level . . . we had with Delta,” Moderna CEO Bancel told the Financial Times in an interview.

“I think it’s going to be a material drop. I just don’t know how much because 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. 

Omicron – which the World Health Organization (WHO) said carries a “very high” risk of infection surges – has triggered global alarm, with border closures casting a shadow over a nascent economic recovery from a two-year pandemic. 

News of its emergence wiped roughly $2 trillion off the value of global stocks on Friday, although some calm was restored this week as investors waited for more data on the characteristics of Omicron. FRX

Remarks by President Joe Biden that the United States would not reinstate lockdowns had also helped soothe markets before comments from the Moderna chief spooked investors.

Biden has called for wider vaccination, while the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged everyone aged 18 years and older to get a booster shot. Britain too has expanded its COVID-19 booster programme amid Omicron fears.

Source: Reuters

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