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J&J (JNJ) to Explore Omicron Version of its COVID Vaccine

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J&J (JNJ - Free Report) said it is testing the effectiveness of its single-dose COVID-19 vaccine against the new, rapidly spreading and highly dangerous Omicron variant.

The blood serum from participants of completed and ongoing booster studies is being tested by the company for neutralizing activity against the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529), which was detected in South Africa and Botswana last week. J&J is also pursuing a new vaccine against Omicron, which will be pushed to clinical development, rapidly, if needed.

J&J’s vaccine is presently approved for emergency use in some countries. A booster shot of J&J’s vaccine was granted emergency use authorization (EUA) by the FDA last month for adults aged 18 and older who received an authorized COVID-19 vaccine.

J&J’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine generated sales of $766 million in the first nine months of 2021.

This year so far, J&J’s shares have risen 1.6% compared with an increase of 14.2% for the industry.

 

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The Omicron variant has a large number of mutations. Some of these mutations are very concerning and there is a high risk of re-infections with this variant, as suggested by preliminary data. The potential high-risks of the Omicron variant led the WHO to add it to its “Variant of Concern” list on Nov 26.

Though there is not much clarity about the severity of the disease that Omicron could cause and whether or not the presently available vaccines will prove effective against the same, some other vaccine makers have announced their strategies for developing updated vaccines and boosters in order to respond to this variant.

Moderna (MRNA - Free Report) has already tested a 100-microgram booster dose, compared to its authorized booster dose of 50-microgram of its COVID-19 vaccine, mRNA-1273. The higher dose of its booster dose has resulted in the highest neutralizing titers against prior SARS-CoV-2 strains. Moderna is now rapidly testing sera from participants of high-dose booster studies to see if the dose provides neutralizing protection against Omicron.

Secondly, Moderna is also testing its two other existing multi-valent booster candidates against the Omicron variant. Thirdly, Moderna is also planning to develop an Omicron-specific booster candidate.

Reportedly, Pfizer (PFE - Free Report) stated that its partner BioNTech (BNTX - Free Report) is expecting additional data on the Omicron variant over the next two weeks. BioNTech will assess whether its vaccine, Comirnaty, needs to be reworked based on this additional data.

Pfizer and BioNTech expect to be able to ship redesigned Comirnaty, if needed, to provide protection against the Omicron variant in approximately 100 days per a Reuters article.

J&J currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.


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