HealthDay News — Moderna Inc. announced Tuesday that an updated COVID-19 booster shot that combines Moderna’s original vaccine with protection against the beta variant appears more effective than current booster shots against omicron and a number of other variants.
Before the highly transmissible omicron variant surfaced, Moderna was tweaking its original vaccine to provide added protection against the earlier beta variant. But Moderna said the combination vaccine triggered antibodies capable of fighting several variants — including omicron — than regular booster shots now available to people.
Moderna is now testing a second combination shot that includes its original vaccine and one that targets omicron by including 32 of that variant’s mutations. Studies of two booster doses are underway in the United States and Britain and results are expected by June, The New York Times reported.
“We are pleased with these data for our first bivalent booster candidate, mRNA-1273.211. We believe that these results validate our bivalent strategy, which we announced and began pursuing in February 2021,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a company statement. “The results indicate that mRNA-1273.211 at the 50 µg dose level induced higher antibody responses than the 50 µg mRNA-1273 booster, even when additional variants of concern were not included in the booster vaccine.”
In the statement, Bancel touted the powers of the second combo vaccine. “Our latest bivalent booster candidate, mRNA-1273.214, which combines the currently authorized Moderna COVID-19 booster with our omicron-specific booster candidate, remains our lead candidate for the fall 2022 Northern Hemisphere booster,” Bancel said. “We look forward to sharing initial data on mRNA-1273.214 later in the second quarter. We believe that a bivalent booster vaccine, if authorized, would create a new tool as we continue to respond to emerging variants.”
The findings from the first combo shot’s tests were reported online and have not been reviewed by independent experts.
The antibody increase prompted by the beta combination booster was modest, but these “results really give us hope” that the next combination vaccine will work even better, Moderna Vice President Jacqueline Miller, M.D., told the Associated Press. She said the beta shot’s effectiveness against omicron is likely due to the fact that the vaccine includes four mutations found in both beta and omicron.