“Despite the appearance of new variants over the past year, vaccines have continued to provide very high levels of protection against severe disease and there is no evidence so far that omicron is any different,” a University of Oxford spokesperson told Fox News in an email. “However, we have the necessary tools and processes in place for rapid development of an updated COVID-19 vaccine if it should be necessary.”
The spokesperson also said current data about the omicron variant is limited due to its recent discovery.
The institution pledged to carefully evaluate the implications of the emergency of the variant for vaccine immunity.
Oxford University said it was ready to produce a new version of its vaccine – developed with biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca – if needed.
Passengers get a COVID-19 test at a Testing Centre at Heathrow Airport in London, Monday, Nov. 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
However, it remains unclear where or when the variant first emerged.
In fact, not much is known about the variant, although the agency warned that the global risk from the variant is “very high” and early evidence suggests it could be more contagious.
Japan and France announced their first cases of the new variant on Tuesday, following moves last week and this week by many countries to implement travel restrictions that have been discouraged by South Africa and the WHO.
The WHO said there are “considerable uncertainties” about the variant, but noted that preliminary evidence raises the possibility that it has mutations that could help it both evade an immune-system response and boost its ability to spread from one person to another.
Doctors in South Africa are reporting patients are suffering mostly mild symptoms so far, although most of the new cases are people in their 20s and 30s, who generally do not get as sick from COVID-19 as older patients.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.