Moscow, Nov 29 (AP) The developer of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine said Monday that it will immediately start working on adapting that COVID-19 vaccine to counter the omicron variant.

The Gamaleya Institute and the Russian Direct Investment Fund that bankrolled Sputnik V and its one-shot version Sputnik Light said in a statement that the existing vaccine should be efficient against the new variant.

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“Nonetheless, the Gamaleya Institute, based on existing protocols of immediately developing vaccine versions for variants of concern, has already begun developing the new version of Sputnik vaccine adapted to omicron,” the statement said.

“The Gamaleya Institute believes Sputnik V and Sputnik Light will neutralize omicron, as they have highest efficacy against other mutations,” RDIF head Kirill Dmitriev said in the statement.

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If a modification is necessary, a new version of Sputnik V could be ready for mass production in 45 days, the statement said, claiming that several hundred million Sputnik omicron boosters can be provided to international markets by Feb 20, 2022, with over 3 billion doses available in 2022.

The statement made no mention of previous production bottlenecks that Russia has had while making the Sputnik V vaccine, which involves giving out two different vaccine shots. Countries in Latin America have complained about delays in getting the second Sputnik V shot.

The new omicron variant was identified days ago by researchers in South Africa, prompting nations around the world to order travel bans for several nations in southern Africa.

Still, much is still not known about it, including whether omicron is more contagious, more likely to cause serious illness or more able to evade the protection of vaccines. (AP)

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