Moderna Inc. announced Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine booster shot significantly increased antibodies against the Omicron variant.
“The dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases from the Omicron variant is concerning to all. However, these data showing that the currently authorized Moderna COVID-19 booster can boost neutralizing antibody levels 37-fold higher than pre-boost levels are reassuring,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel, said in a company statement.
Moderna also noted that a dose double the size of a normal booster, equivalent to that used in the main shots and in the third dose given primarily to immunocompromised people, raised antibody levels by 83 times.
As well, “to respond to this highly transmissible variant, Moderna will continue to rapidly advance an Omicron-specific booster candidate into clinical testing, in case it becomes necessary in the future,” Bancel added. “We will also continue to generate and share data across our booster strategies with public health authorities to help them make evidence-based decisions on the best vaccination strategies against SARS-CoV-2.”
The boost in antibodies “should provide some good level of protection as we go into the holiday season,” Moderna Chief Medical Officer Paul Burton told the Washington Post.
Moderna doesn’t yet have clinical data on protection against hospitalization and death, but the new findings are “very reassuring because we’ve seen time and time again … that the vaccine is highly effective at preventing infection, hospitalization and death due to COVID,” Burton added.
On Sunday, now retired National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins told CBS News that the United States could soon reach 1 million new cases a day due to Omicron. Already, the variant has been detected in 41 states and New York state has reported record case numbers for three straight days, while officials said the rest of the country could soon see the same.
“The big question is, are those million cases going to be sick enough to need health care and especially hospitalization?” Collins said. “We’re just holding our breath to see how severe this will be.”
Experts agree that booster shots are the best defense against the Omicron variant, but only 60.2 million of nearly 204 million fully vaccinated Americans have gotten the extra shot, CDC data shows.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a third full shot of the vaccine for people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised, such as those undergoing cancer treatment, taking immunosuppressants, or living with advanced or untreated HIV.
The “exceptional” response from the larger dose, Burton said, could signal that a higher dose may be useful in “certain high-risk individuals.”
Visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for more on COVID vaccines.