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Moderna says its COVID-19 booster appears to protect against omicron variant

Medical staff and volunteers prepare shots of the Moderna vaccine at an NHS COVID-19 vaccination center on Dec. 16, 2021, near Ramsgate, United Kingdom. (Leon Neal/WPA Pool/Getty Images/TNS)

The third shot of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine provides a “reassuring” level of protection against the omicron variant, the pharmaceutical company announced Monday as the newest strain continues to spread rampantly.

The booster shot, the equivalent of half of the dose of the first two, increased antibody levels against omicron by 37 times, based on preliminary data, according to Moderna.

“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,” Stéphane Bancel, Chief Executive Officer of Moderna, said in a statement.

Moderna is still working on an “omicron-specific booster,” Bancel said. Clinical trials on that could begin as early as 2022.

The company’s preliminary study looked at 20 booster recipients at 29 days post-shot.

Moderna is also experimenting with a full-dose booster shot, which is so far “generally safe and well tolerated,” but has shown more frequent adverse reactions than the half-dose.

Similarly, Pfizer said last month that its own booster shot improves protection against omicron “25-fold” compared to the first two doses.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday that omicron accounts for more than half of the current COVID-19 cases in the United States, just as the country gets ready to travel and mingle for the holidays.

“We are going to see a significant stress in some regions of the country on the hospital system, particularly in those areas where you have a low level of vaccination,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sunday that more testing sites will be opening in New York City and at-home tests will be available through local nonprofits as cases are starting to overwhelm the existing infrastructure. Still, the additional sites will only bring the total to 30, almost half what was open as recently as November.

“All of these efforts will help to reduce the lines we’re seeing at testing sites,” de Blasio said.


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