CEPI Statement: Emergence of a new SARS-CoV-2 variant, B.1.1.529

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Dr Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, said:

"The emergence of a SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.529 underscores the critical need for continued COVID-19 vaccine research and development.

"It's of course critical that we continue to get people vaccinated globally to reduce the amount of virus in circulation but we must also focus effort and resources on improving the current COVID-19 vaccines to make them more effective against multiple variants of SARS-CoV-2.

"Our strategy must seek to optimize the way we deploy our current vaccines so every dose delivers the maximum benefit; improve upon our existing arsenal of vaccines; and prepare now for the possibility of variants that can evade our vaccines.

"CEPI's world-leading COVID-19 vaccine programme is seeking to do all three:

- CEPI is funding studies to help policy makers deliver the most effective possible vaccination strategies with the vaccines we have available, like ‘mix-and-match' vaccination approaches which could lead to stronger and longer lasting protection.

- We're developing the ‘next-generation' of vaccines that could offer advantages over the current jabs, like vaccines that target different parts of the virus and a nasal vaccine with the potential to stop transmission.

- And we're staying one step ahead of the virus by supporting the development of vaccines against variants of concern that we already know about, as well as ‘variant-proof' vaccines which could protect against a broad range of variants that are yet to emerge but could do so in the future.

"CEPI is also part of a global system designed to pick up these mutants instantly, allowing us to alert our global lab network to start assessing whether current vaccines can block this and future COVID-19 variants, and to alert CEPI-backed developers to look at making variant-proofing updates to their products."