Health regulators in the United Kingdom have cleared the Moderna COVID-19 booster vaccine, which targets both the original coronavirus strain and its Omicron version.
The business announced in June that the booster is an upgraded version of the original Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. According to the U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, clinical trial results indicate that the booster induces a “strong immune response” against the original Omicron (BA.1) and original 2020 strains of COVID-19. Reportedly, the vaccination elicits a strong immune response against Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5, which are now circulating widely in the United States.
Booster weariness is expected at this stage, but specialists claim this specific booster is unique. When can you anticipate seeing the Omicron-specific Moderna COVID-19 booster in the United States?
What is the COVID-19 booster for the Omicron Moderna?
Moderna describes the Omicron Moderna booster as the Omicron-containing bivalent COVID-19 booster vaccine, mRNA-1273.214 (Spikevax Bivalent Original/Omicron). Half of this vaccine targets the original SARS-CoV-2 virus that produces COVID-19, while the other half targets the original Omicron virus, also known as BA.1.
As with previous COVID-19 boosters, this is administered in a single dose.
What do the data indicate?
Phase 2/3 clinical trial data shows that this booster is effective. Moderna claims that the booster vaccination has a “better neutralizing antibody response against Omicron” compared to their normal COVID-19 vaccine. Moderna reports that the booster boosted neutralizing antibodies against Omicron by eightfold and elicited “powerful” antibody responses against BA.4 and BA.5 compared to the existing COVID-19 booster.
What are the adverse effects of the COVID-19 booster Omicron Moderna?
The business reports that the side effects seen by the 437 participants in the clinical trials were comparable to those of the original Moderna vaccine. Examples include:
- Pain, swelling, and redness where you got the shot
- Muscle pain
“We anticipate more durable protection against variants of concern with mRNA-1273.214, making it our lead candidate for a Fall 2022 booster,” Stéphane Bancel, chief executive officer of Moderna, said in a press release.
Why is an Omicron-specific booster needed?
“Increasingly, people have desired protection not just against severe disease but against infection,” says infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “Because the virus has mutated away from the ancestral strain, current vaccines don’t provide robust protection against infection and a booster reformulating to better match circulating strains of SARS-CoV-2 may provide more benefit than boosting with the ancestral strain.”
William Schaffner, M.D., an infectious disease expert and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, asserts that keeping up with COVID-19’s constant mutations is vital for providing optimal protection to the public. “This is quite similar to what we do with influenza, another virus that mutates and evolves continually,” he explains. “Our influenza vaccine is updated annually in each hemisphere, and it appears that we are on schedule to do the same with our COVID vaccinations.”
Professor and chief of infectious disease at the University of Buffalo in New York, Thomas Russo, M.D., says it’s difficult to predict at this time how long booster vaccines will give protection. “It remains to be seen how effective these boosters will be,” he says. After two to four months, their potency diminishes, although they continue to be moderately effective against severe sickness, hospitalizations, and mortality.
When will this Omicron booster be available in the U.S.?
The situation is not totally apparent at this time. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced in late July that it will purchase 66 million doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 booster for use this fall if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approve and recommend the product, respectively (CDC).
HHS has also committed to acquire at least 105 million doses of the Omicron-specific booster manufactured by Pfizer.
The FDA expressly said in late June that it has urged vaccine manufacturers to develop modified vaccinations targeting the Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5, with the objective of having them available for public use in early to mid-fall.
However, Dr. Adalja states that it is “unclear” if this particular booster will be permitted in the United States. “It targets BA.1, a currently circulating form of Omicron, whereas the FDA had urged producers to target BA.4 and BA.5” Dr. Russo concurs. He notes that the FDA has taken a somewhat different approach than the British health authorities.
In the end, according to Dr. Schaffner, Americans will have to wait and see. “We aim to match the vaccination as closely as possible to defend against the most recent strain,” he explains. However, obtaining approval for a novel vaccination is not something that can be scheduled.
And if you are eligible for a booster vaccine now, Dr. Schaffner advises that you receive it.
“We don’t have this updated vaccine in hand yet,” he says. “Let’s not count our chickens before they hatch.”
This article is accurate as of press time. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly evolves and the scientific community’s understanding of the novel coronavirus develops, some of the information may have changed since it was last updated. While we aim to keep all of our stories up to date, please visit online resources provided by the CDC, WHO, and your local public health department to stay informed on the latest news. Always talk to your doctor for professional medical advice.