A Nigeria civil servant receives an AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, in Abuja, Nigeria [File: Gbemiga Olamikan/AP]

Spokesperson says manufacturers should start planning ahead and not wait ‘until the final alarm bell rings.’

By Ted Regencia and Elizabeth Melimopoulos-Al Jazeera

Makers of COVID-19 vaccines should gear up for the “likelihood” of needing to adjust their products to protect against the Omicron variant, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) spokesperson has said.

Christian Lindmeier, speaking at a UN briefing in Geneva, said the agency was still studying the transmissibility and severity of the new variant, first reported in Southern Africa.

“It is very recommendable that vaccine manufacturers already start planning ahead and plan for the likelihood for having to adjust the existing vaccine,” Lindmeier said on Friday. “That’s good not just to wait until the final alarm bell rings,” he added.

US FDA aiming for speedy review of Omicron vaccines and drugs: WSJ

The US Food and Drug Administration is setting up guidelines to expedite reviews of COVID-19 vaccines and drugs targeting the Omicron variant, the Wall Street Journal has reported.

Companies working on Omicron-tailored vaccines would be expected to meet standards similar to those required for authorisation of boosters, the report said.

BioNTech CEO says it can adapt vaccines quickly for Omicron

German company BioNTech should be able to adapt its coronavirus vaccine relatively quickly in response to the emergence of the Omicron variant, BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin has said.

Sahin also said that vaccines should continue to provide protection against severe disease despite mutations in the virus.

“This variant might be able to infect vaccinated people. We anticipate that infected people who have been vaccinated will still be protected against severe disease,” he said.