Omicron: Moderna says booster dose raises neutralizing antibodies against variant

Moderna said early Monday that a booster dose of its coronavirus vaccine raises neutralizing antibodies against the omicron variant, according to preliminary lab tests.

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In a news release, the company said an initial lab study demonstrated that a 50-microgram booster shot of its COVID-19 vaccine increased antibody levels against the variant about 37-fold compared to “pre-boost” levels. A 100-microgram booster increased antibody levels 83-fold, the release said.

The study has not yet been published or peer-reviewed, Moderna said.

In the United States, the currently approved Moderna booster dose is 50 micrograms, while the first two doses of the vaccine are 100 micrograms each.

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“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, Moderna’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. “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. 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 news came less than two weeks after Pfizer and BioNTech said a third dose of their COVID-19 vaccine appeared to neutralize omicron, increasing antibody levels 25-fold compared to two doses.

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New coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths appear to be on the rise in the U.S. As of Sunday, the country was averaging more than 133,000 new cases per day – an increase of 21% over the past two weeks, according to The New York Times. In the same 14-day period, new daily hospitalizations rose 16%, while deaths increased 9%, the newspaper reported.

By Sunday afternoon, about 61.4% of Americans were considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19, meaning they had received two doses of an mRNA vaccine, such as Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. About 29.5% of fully vaccinated Americans have received a booster dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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