Omicron has already become the dominant variant of the coronavirus in the United States, accounting for over 73 per cent of new cases as of last Saturday. It looks inevitable that it will soon overtake the Delta strain worldwide. What makes Omicron alarming is the high probability of “ vaccine escape ”, meaning even inoculated people may become infected, although their chances of severe illness should be lower than that for the unvaccinated. Vaccine manufacturers around the world are racing against time to study how their shots fare against the new variant, both in laboratory settings and in real life. The findings are extremely important for policymakers: should the people be given a third shot? Which third shot should be chosen? Should there be an Omicron-specific vaccine? However, without a coordinated worldwide effort, what we have received thus far is just scattered information from individual manufacturers and researchers. BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin told Le Monde that triple-vaccinated people were still likely to transmit Covid-19. Moderna said that a booster dose of its Covid-19 vaccine appeared to improve protection against Omicron. Separately, Chinese researchers in a non-peer-reviewed paper said Sinopharm’s inactivated boosters showed a significant reduction in neutralising antibody activity, falling by a fifth compared to similar activity against an older strain from Wuhan. Sinovac, the largest Covid-19 vaccine supplier to developing countries, claimed a third shot of its CoronaVac could help fight the Omicron strain, days after University of Hong Kong researchers said two doses were “inadequate”. However, Sinovac did not provide details in support of its claim. Meanwhile, a non-previewed paper led by Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention director Gao Fu said the three-shot regimen of a protein subunit vaccine by Anhui Zhifei Longcom offered better protection against Omicron than inactivated vaccines, if the last dose was given after a more extended interval. However, lab data from different manufacturers and scientists is fragmented and hard to compare, because of the different methods and reagents used. Real-life data is also sketchy. For months, scientists have called for an independent body, perhaps led by the World Health Organization, to verify and compare vaccines so that policymakers can make informed decisions on vaccination strategies. Coronavirus: WHO gives the nod for mix-and-match vaccine schedules Many countries are considering mixing vaccines for the booster shot, and such information will have an important impact on their choices. Despite the WHO’s eagerness, the proposed body has failed to take shape because both pharmaceuticals and governments are reluctant to send their vaccine samples for comparative research, the former for commercial reasons and the latter out of political considerations. But until such a mechanism is set up, we will continue to be bombarded by press releases of individual manufacturers without finding out how the different vaccines truly compare when it comes to beating Omicron.