Global Markets Shaked by Omicron Variant Worries

By Rhiannon Melton

Investment in COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers spiked Friday and Monday morning due to public concerns about the omicron variant. Scientists remain unsure as to whether current vaccines will stop omicron.

Moderna (MDRNA) spiked 20% during Wall Street’s shortened Black Friday trading hours, and increased another 10% Monday.

BioNTech (BNTX) soared Friday, up 14%, and gained another 3% Monday. Pfizer (PFE), BioNTech’s European partner, gained 6% Friday, but dropped slightly Monday.

The omicron variant was first discovered in South Africa and has been named a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization.

Omicron has 26 spike mutations, making the variant unique as opposed to the original COVID-19 strain, and variants delta and beta, with 10 and 6 mutations, respectively. These mutations make it harder for the immune system to recognize and defend against the virus.

Scientists are working to gather data as to whether COVID-19 vaccines will protect against this omicron variant, but early findings are ambiguous.

“Probably in a few weeks, we’ll have a better sense of how much this variant is spreading and how necessary it might be to push forward with a new variant vaccine,” Jesse Bloom, an evolutionary biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research in Seattle, told the New York Times.

Scientists won’t know for another two weeks, at the earliest, whether vaccines will need to be altered to protect against the omicron variant.