Moderna Inc. said Monday that a booster dose of its COVID-19 vaccine has been shown in laboratory tests to be protective against the fast-expanding Omicron variant, and the current version of the vaccine will continue to be Moderna’s “first line of defense against Omicron.”
The vaccine maker says the decision to focus on the current vaccine, mRNA-1273, was driven by how fast the recently discovered variant is spreading. The company is still planning to develop a vaccine specifically to protect against Omicron, which it hopes to advance in clinical trials early next year.
“What we have now is 1273,” said Dr. Paul Burton, Modern Medical Chief Medical Officer, in an interview. “It’s very effective, and it’s extremely safe. I think it will save people during the upcoming holidays and this winter months, when we’re going to see the most severe pressure on Omicron.”
The company said a two-dose course of its vaccine produced less neutral antibodies against the Omicron variant, but increased the neutral antibody 37 times against a 50 microgram booster dose variant. A higher, 100 microgram booster dose of the same vaccine increased antibody levels – more than 80 times pre-boost levels.
The data, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, tested the blood of people who had been vaccinated against a pseudovirus similar to the Omicron variant. This is similar to the latest data from Anthony Fawcett, a leading infectious disease specialist in the United States.
Burton said it would be up to the government and regulators to decide whether they wanted an improved level of protection that could provide a dose of 100 micrograms.
The company said that 100 microgram doses were generally safe and well tolerated, although there was a tendency towards slightly more frequent adverse reactions.
Moderna has tested the effectiveness of the vaccine over its prototype booster, which looks at multiple previous forms of anxiety and says the results are similar.
U.S. regulators approved a 50-microgram booster of the modern vaccine in October. The first two shots of the modern vaccine are both 100 micrograms.
Both Moderna and Pfizer / BioNTech vaccines are rarely associated with inflammation of the heart, especially in young men. Several studies have suggested that the modern vaccine can cause high rates of heartburn.
Omicron, a highly contagious variant that was first detected in South Africa and Hong Kong last month, has run around the world and has been reported in 89 countries, the World Health Organization said Saturday.
It said the number of Omicron cases doubling in 1.5 to 3 days in areas with community transmission, but noted that much is unknown about the variant, including the severity of the illness it causes.
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