Moderna plans to produce a booster vaccine shot specifically for the new coronavirus variant Omicron
- Moderna has outlined its strategy to address the new coronavirus variant Omicron.
- The company plans to 'rapidly advance' a variant-specific booster and is testing a doubled booster dose.
- The WHO said the B.1.1.529 variant might increase the risk of reinfection compared to other variants of concern.
Moderna has outlined its strategy to address the new coronavirus variant Omicron, including a variant-specific booster and a doubled booster dose.
In a press release on Friday, the pharmaceutical company said that it was testing several options to respond to the new variant if current vaccines proved to be ineffective.
The World Health Organisation designated Omicron as a "variant of concern" on Friday. It said that preliminary evidence suggests it may increase the risk of reinfection compared to other variants of concern.
Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Moderna said that it has already been testing a booster shot that has double the currently authorised booster dose —100 micrograms compared with 50—on healthy adults.
Secondly, it said it was also already studying two different boosters designed to anticipate mutations such as those that have emerged in the Omicron variant.
As a final possible line of defense, the company said it plans to "rapidly advance" an Omicron-specific booster dose.
The last option is being tested as part of the company's strategy to advance several variant-specific candidates, which during 2021, has already included Beta- and Delta-specific boosters.
Moderna said it has been able to advance new candidates to clinical testing in 60-90 days.
"From the beginning, we have said that as we seek to defeat the pandemic, it is imperative that we are proactive as the virus evolves," Stéphane Bancel, chief executive officer of Moderna, said in the press release.
"The mutations in the Omicron variant are concerning and for several days, we have been moving as fast as possible to execute our strategy to address this variant."
BioNTech-Pfizer said it would know within two weeks if its vaccine works against the rapidly spreading new variant.
Researchers in South Africa detected the first known case on November 9.
Scientists worry the variant could be driving a recent outbreak in the country, where average daily cases have risen 13-fold since the first reported Omicron case.
The US has said it will restrict travel from eight southern African countries on Monday to prevent the spread of the variant.