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WHO designates new Covid strain as 'variant of concern' and names it Omicron

The US pharmaceutical company Moderna has said that it will develop a booster shot against Omicron.

LAST UPDATE | Nov 26th 2021, 9:45 PM

THE WORLD HEALTH Organisation (WHO) has this evening officially designated the latest strain of Covid-19 as a “variant of concern” (VOC).

It will be known as the Omicron variant. 

The first known confirmed Omicron infection was from a specimen collected on November 9. In recent weeks, infections in South Africa have increased steeply, coinciding with the detection.

This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning, according to the WHO.

The health body said that evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other variants of concern.

But it added that said it could take several weeks to complete studies of Omicron to see if there are any changes in transmissibility, severity or implications for Covid vaccines, tests and treatments.

The WHO has urged countries to “enhance surveillance and sequencing efforts to better understand circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants”.

There are a number of studies underway and an expert WHO team will continue to evaluate this variant. The WHO said it will communicate new findings with its member states and to the public as needed.


The US pharmaceutical company Moderna has said that it will develop a booster shot against the new Omicron variant.

It is one of three strategies the company is working to address the new threat, including a higher dose of its existing vaccine, Moderna said.

“The mutations in the Omicron variant are concerning and for several days, we have been moving as fast as possible to execute our strategy to address this variant,” said Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel.

One of the mooted benefits of the new technology mRNA vaccines is that they can be altered and mass produced quicker than other types of vaccines. 

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