|People wear face masks on the London underground, November 30, 2021. REUTERS/Hannah McKay|
Drugmaker Moderna’s CEO set off fresh alarm bells in financial markets after he warned that COVID-19 vaccines were unlikely to be as effective against the Omicron variant as they have been against the Delta version.
Europe’s main bourses jolted 1.4% lower and oil shed 3%, while Japan’s safe-haven yen, German government bonds and gold all rose. Investors are preparing for swings and opportunities as Omicron spreads.
The EU drug regulator said it could approve vaccines adapted to target the Omicron variant within three to four months if needed, but that existing shots would continue to provide protection.
The variant was detected in the Netherlands before two flights arrived from South Africa last week carrying the virus, Dutch health officials said. Some 61 out of the more than 600 passengers on the flights tested positive and went into quarantine after arriving on Friday.
President Joe Biden urged Americans not to panic and said the United States was making contingency plans with pharmaceutical companies if new vaccines are needed.
New mask mandates and other measures aimed at curbing the spread of the variant came into force in England, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson eyes an expanded booster programme to help increase protection.