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Omicron Variant Vaccine: Moderna To Develop Booster Shot For New COVID-19 Variant

Moderna on Friday announced that it is working rapidly to test the ability of the current vaccine booster doses to "neutralise" the new variant.


Image: AP

As the news of the burgeoning Omicron COVID strain triggered spiralling concerns forcing nations to block flights, Moderna on Friday announced that it is working rapidly to test the ability of the current vaccine booster doses to "neutralise" the new variant, which has more than 32 mutations on protein spike and "data is expected in the coming weeks."

The company has strategically begun testing three existing COVID-19 vaccine booster candidates and has already administered a higher booster dose of mRNA-1273 in healthy adults. Additionally, it has begun studying two multi-valent booster candidates in the clinic that were designed to anticipate mutations such as those that have emerged in the Omicron variant, the pharmaceutical company informed through a press release on November 26. Moderna has also decided to rapidly advance an Omicron-specific booster candidate (mRNA-1273.529), which is part of the Company’s strategy to advance variant-specific candidates for a subset of variants of significant concern. 

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

As per the statement, Moderna is working to rapidly test sera from its high dose booster recipients in neutralizing assays to determine if the 100 µg dose provides superior neutralizing protection against Omicron. The Company has completed dosing at the 100 µg (N=584) dose level and also plans to explore the 50 µg dose level in approximately 584 participants. It is to be noted that Moderna has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to advance new candidates to clinical testing in 60-90 days.

Pfizer can launch a new COVID vaccine in 100 days

Meanwhile, Pfizer-BioNtech on Friday informed that it can launch a new updated version of its COVID-19 mRNA vaccine in just 100 days. "In the event that vaccine-escape variant emerges, Pfizer and BioNTech expect to be able to develop and produce a tailor-made vaccine against that variant in approximately 100 days, subject to regulatory approval," the firm said in a statement obtained by Fox Business on Friday. The company agreed that the variant “significantly differs” from all previously observed ones, according to the statement.

It is expected that in two weeks the efficacy of Pfizer vaccines aginst B.1.1.529 variant will be known, as per BioNTech. Meanwhile, WHO has also appointed a team of independent experts known as the Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution (TAG-VE) to monitor and evaluate the Omicron variant, first reported to the apex health care agency from South Africa on November 24.

According to scientists, vaccines the best-known defence against COVID-19 teaches the human cells to neutralise the coronavirus by copying the genetic code from this very spike protein. If it alters too much, the human immune system and the jabs will fail to recognise the virus, Professor Tulio de Oliveira explained. The variant B.1.1.529  has already spread to three countries, Botswana, South Africa, and Hong Kong.

Image: AP/representative

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