As the threat of an outbreak of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 looms, Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine’s developed said that it will immediately start working on adapting that COVID-19 vaccine to counter the 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.

“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.

Should a requirement arise for a modification of the vaccine, a new version of Sputnik V could be ready for mass production in 45 days, the statement added.

The makers further claimed 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.

However, the statement had no mention of previous production bottlenecks that Russia has had while making the Sputnik V vaccine. The previous production 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 reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on November 24 after it was detected in South Africa. A couple of days it was labelled as a ‘variant of concern’. Soon after the news broke, countries worldwide started putting out orders of travel bans to and from southern Africa.

While different countries have stepped up their precautions to stem the spread of the variant, little is known about it, including whether Omicron is more contagious, more likely to cause serious illness or more able to evade the protection of vaccines.

(with inputs from Associated Press)