Moderna COVID-19 vaccine booster dose ‘appears protective against Omicron’

A booster dose of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine appeared to be protective against the fast-spreading Omicron variant in laboratory testing, the company said on Monday.

It also said the current version of the vaccine would continue to be Moderna’s “first line of defence against Omicron”.

Moderna says a booster shot of its COVID-19 vaccine appears effective against the Omicron variant.

Moderna says a booster shot of its COVID-19 vaccine appears effective against the Omicron variant.Credit:Leon Neal

The vaccine maker said the decision to focus on the current vaccine, mRNA-1273, was driven in part by the rapid spread of the recently discovered variant. The company still plans to develop a vaccine specifically to protect against Omicron, which it hopes to advance into clinical trials early next year.

“What we have available right now is 1273,” Dr Paul Burton, Moderna’s chief medical officer, said in an interview. “It’s highly effective, and it’s extremely safe. I think it will protect people through the coming holiday period and through these winter months [in the US], when we’re going to see the most severe pressure of Omicron.”

The company said a two-dose course of its vaccine generated low neutralising antibodies against the Omicron variant, but a 50-microgram booster dose increased neutralising antibodies against the variant 37-fold. A higher, 100 microgram booster dose of the same vaccine drove antibody levels even higher – more than 80 times pre-boost levels.

The data, which has not yet been peer reviewed, tested blood from people who had received the vaccine against a pseudovirus engineered to resemble the Omicron variant. It is similar to data recently discussed by top US infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci.

Burton said it would be up to governments and regulators to gauge whether they wanted the enhanced level of protection that a 100-microgram dose might confer.

The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration said it was aware of the data and was meeting Moderna regularly to discuss developments in vaccines.

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