"Not giving priority to vaccinate all vulnerable people around the world causes deaths and prolongs the pandemic," Llorenti stressed.
On Friday, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) Secretary-General Sacha Llorenti pointed out that the hoarding of COVID-19 vaccines prompted favorable conditions for the appearance of the Omicron strain.
"The appearance of Omicron was a foreseeable consequence of the hoarding of vaccines by some northern countries," Llorenti said, adding that "not giving priority to vaccinate all vulnerable people around the world causes deaths and prolongs the pandemic."
On Nov. 26, the World Health Organization (WHO) determined that Omicron is a "risk variant" as scientists warned that this strain’s new mutations seem to suggest it has greater disease transmission capacity. Since the spread of Omicron cannot be easily contained, scientists are working on new options to prevent and manage contagions.
On Friday, BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin acknowledged that current vaccines have to be adapted because the new strain could more easily infect even vaccinated people.
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Omicron is an "escape variant," which means that it "might be able to infect vaccinated people," Sahin said but specified that "infected people who have been vaccinated will still be protected against severe disease."
Thirty-two of the Omicron variant's 50 mutations identified so far affect the spike protein, which the virus uses to enter and replicate in human cells. Most vaccines target this mechanism and researchers believe that immune defenses may no longer sufficiently recognize the protein due to the high number of mutations.
Nevertheless, vaccine adaptation might be rapid in both the RNA-based vaccines Pfizer and Moderna, and the viral-vector-based vaccines AstraZeneca and Sputnik V. "In both technologies, modifying the drug would consist of including a piece of the genetic information of the COVID-19 virus containing the new mutations," France 24 explained.