Europe 1 with AFP 6:37 p.m., November 28, 2021

A "race against time" is underway to analyze the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus and to understand whether to adapt the vaccines, the president of the European Commission said on Sunday from Latvia. Ursula von der Leyen calls on populations to take precautions to give scientists time to analyze the new variant.

A "race against time" is underway to analyze the novel Omicron variant of the coronavirus and understand whether to adapt the vaccines, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Sunday in Riga, Latvia.

"We know that we are now in a race against time," said Ursula von der Leyen, calling on populations to take precautions to give scientists time to analyze the new variant.

"Scientists and manufacturers need two to three weeks to have a complete picture of the characteristics of the mutations in this Omicron variant," she added.

BioNTech-Pfizer must adapt its vaccine

"We must buy time," she continued, calling on people to be vaccinated, to wear masks and to respect the necessary distance.

She said a contract signed this summer by the European Commission with the BioNTech-Pfizer joint venture for 1.8 billion doses of vaccine included a clause providing for the case of a variant escaping the existing vaccine.

By this clause, the laboratory then undertakes to be able to adapt its vaccine within 100 days, she said. 

The new variant, whose identification was announced Thursday in South Africa, has spread to a number of countries, causing growing concern, especially in Europe.

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