Moderna says its updated COVID vaccine boosts protection against Omicron
Moderna’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine that combines its original shot with protection specifically targeted against the Omicron variant appears to work, the company said Wednesday.
COVID-19 vaccine makers are studying updated boosters that might be offered in the fall to better protect people against future coronavirus surges.
Moderna’s preliminary study results show that people given the combination shot experienced an eightfold increase in virus-fighting antibodies capable of targeting the Omicron mutant, the company said.
Today’s COVID-19 vaccines all are based on the original version of the coronavirus. They’re still providing strong protection against severe disease, hospitalization and death even after the appearance of the super-contagious Omicron variant — especially if people have had a booster dose.
But the virus continues to mutate rapidly in ways that let it evade some of the vaccines’ protections and cause milder infections.
U.S. regulators and the World Health Organization are considering whether to order a change in the vaccine recipe for a new round of booster shots in the fall, when cold weather and kids returning to school are expected to drive yet another surge.
Novavax, a more traditional kind of COVID-19 vaccine, has moved a step closer to the U.S. market
Key questions: How to make that change without losing the continued strong protection against COVID-19’s worst outcomes? And what’s the right variant to target? After the huge winter surge fueled by the Omicron variant, its genetically distinct siblings now are the main threats, including one that’s driving the current U.S. wave of infections.
The Food and Drug Administration has set a meeting in late June for its scientific advisors to debate those questions and evaluate data from vaccine-makers’ tests of potential new formulas. Pfizer also is studying a combination shot, which scientists call a bivalent vaccine.
Moderna said its new study found that a month after the combo shot, recipients harbored higher Omicron-fighting antibody levels — and cross-protection against other prior variants — than those triggered by the original vaccine. However, antibodies naturally wane, so it’s not clear how long the protection against infection will last.
The study was performed in 437 people, and safety was similar to today’s boosters, Moderna said. The results were announced in a press release and haven’t undergone scientific review.
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