Moderna officials stated on Monday that its booster shot appears to be effective against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. According to laboratory tests that have been underway, the Moderna shot will continue to be its “first line of defense against Omicron,” they stated to the press.
The pharmaceuticals firm, based out of Cambridge, Massachusetts, used its current formulation of the vaccine, called mRNA-1273, for the studies, partially because the onset of the Omicron variant has been so very sudden all around the globe.
However, the officials state that they still intend to create another shot that is specialized to fight the Omicron mutation; trials for the new product will begin in the firs few months of 2022.
Omicron variant now constituting 82% of symptomatic coronavirus cases in Houston
Reuters reports that shares in Moderna rose 6.7% to $314.51 in early trading today after the announcement.
Moderna’s chief medical officer Dr. Paul Burton told Reuters on Monday that “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, when we’re going to see the most severe pressure of Omicron.”
The pharmaceuticals firm stated that two doses of its widely-distributed vaccine generated low amounts of neutralizing antibodies against Omicron — but a 50 microgram booster shot of the same product produced approximately 37 times the number of neutralizing antibodies against the variant.
Intriguingly, a higher third dose of the same vaccine, equivalent to 100 micrograms, prompted the creation of even higher levels of antibodies, over 80 times the levels seen before the booster shot.
Stephen Hoge, the president of Moderna, told reporters on a conference call that for now, Moderna has no plans to pursue regulatory approval for the higher dose.
He explained that the levels of antibodies generated by the lower-dose inoculation “are comfortably above” the levels that would constitute a risk of breakthrough infections for other variants of concern.
This most recent study, which has not yet been through the peer review process, sampled blood from those who had received the Moderna vaccine against a “pseudovirus” engineered to resemble Omicron.
Hope stated that it may not even be necessary for most people to have the enhanced antibody levels created by the 50-microgram dose. However, health authorities could choose a higher-dose product if they need to give extremely high levels of protection to a certain cohort.
“Could higher be better? Absolutely. But do we have data on that today to make a conclusive recommendation? No,” Hoge told reporters today.
Moderna officials admitted that the highest-dose shot, with 100 micrograms, caused slightly more adverse reactions than the 50-mcg vaccine booster used in the general population now, although it was safe and well tolerated in general.
Moderna’s booster shot, which has 50 mcg of the vaccine, was approved back in October by US authorities; the initial two-dose shots both have 100 mcg each.
Both Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech’s mRNA-based vaccines have been linked to rare instances of myocarditis, or heart inflammation, most often in young men. All cases of the condition have been treatable.
Some studies have suggested that the Moderna product is more likely to cause myocarditis than the Pfizer shot.
The World Health Organization reported on Saturday that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has now been detected in 89 countries around the globe. Dr. Anthony Fauci stated on Monday that the number of cases are “doubling every two to three days,” calling its virulence “extraordinary.”
In Houston, one of the major American hotspots for the variant, 82% of symptomatic cases are now caused by Omicron.