Covid lifeline as Moderna begins trials on Omicron-specific jab – will be ready in months


The first participant has already received a dose, Moderna has reported. If all goes well, the company should be able to roll out the vaccine by later 2022. While the original jabs still offer good protection from severe Covid infections, the contagious nature of the Omicron variant prompted a re-think of current vaccine formulas. It also comes after Pfizer launched a similar study of its re-jigged shots earlier this week.

Studies have down that booster jabs do strengthen protection, although there has been some indication that the new variant can penetrate immunised defences.

But the virus has still proven to be less severe in boosted patients.

In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday, results showed antibodies able to target omicron persisted for six months after a booster dose.

But it warned that the levels were dropping.

Moderna’s new study will take 600 people who already have received either two doses of the pharmaceutical giant’s original shots, or two plus a booster dose.

All the volunteers in the study are set to receive a dose of the new omicron-targeted version.

Moderna has promised to share its data from the trial with public health leaders so they can make evidence-based decisions on the best booster strategy against Covid.

In three studies led by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, results showed a booster mRNA vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna are key to fighting against Omicron.

Pfizer and its partner BioNTech have also planned to test their reformulated booster on healthy adults.

At present, it is still unclear whether the change to the vaccine recipes will be rolled out by health authorities.

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Kathrin Jansen, Pfizer’s vaccine research chief, said in a statement: “We recognise the need to be prepared in the event this protection wanes over time and to potentially help address Omicron and new variants in the future.”

Pfizer’s study will include up to 1,420 volunteers ages 18 to 55.

Like Moderna’s study, they will also receive updated Omicron-based shots for use as a booster or for primary vaccinations.

Pfizer and other vaccine manufacturers have already created and tested experimental doses to match previous variants.

While the changes weren’t needed in the end, they offered valuable practice as formulas are now being changed to target Omicron.

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