TUESDAY, April 19, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- Moderna Inc. announced Tuesday that an updated COVID booster shot that combines Moderna's original vaccine with protection against the Beta variant appears more effective than current booster shots against Omicron and a number of other variants.
Before the highly transmissible Omicron variant surfaced, Moderna was tweaking its original vaccine to provide added protection against the earlier Beta variant.
But Moderna said the combination vaccine triggered antibodies capable of fighting several variants -- including Omicron -- than regular booster shots now available to people.
Moderna is now testing a second combination shot that includes its original vaccine and one that targets Omicron by including 32 of that variant’s mutations. Studies of two booster doses are underway in the United States and Britain and results are expected by June, the New York Times reported.
"We are pleased with these data for our first bivalent booster candidate, mRNA-1273.211. We believe that these results validate our bivalent strategy, which we announced and began pursuing in February 2021. The results indicate that mRNA-1273.211 at the 50 µg dose level induced higher antibody responses than the 50 µg mRNA-1273 booster, even when additional variants of concern were not included in the booster vaccine," Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a company statement.
In it, he touted the powers of the second combo vaccine.
"Our latest bivalent booster candidate, mRNA-1273.214, which combines the currently authorized Moderna COVID-19 booster with our Omicron-specific booster candidate, remains our lead candidate for the fall 2022 Northern Hemisphere booster," Bancel said. "We look forward to sharing initial data on mRNA-1273.214 later in the second quarter. We believe that a bivalent booster vaccine, if authorized, would create a new tool as we continue to respond to emerging variants."
The findings from the first combo shot's tests were reported online and have not been reviewed by independent experts.
The antibody increase prompted by the Beta combination booster was modest, but these "results really give us hope" that the next combination vaccine will work even better, Moderna Vice President Dr. Jacqueline Miller told the Associated Press.
She said the Beta shot's effectiveness against Omicron is likely due to the fact that the vaccine includes four mutations found in both Beta and Omicron.
Pfizer is also testing a shot that's a mix of its original vaccine and an Omicron-targeted version.
All current COVID vaccines are based on the original version of the coronavirus, but it has continued to mutate. Even so, vaccines still offer strong protection against severe illness, hospitalization and death.
Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more on COVID vaccines.