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Moderna starts trial of Omicron-specific COVID vaccine booster

Moderna starts trial of Omicron-specific COVID vaccine booster

The pharm giant Moderna said it would study its Omicron-specific booster in adults aged 18 years and older. 

The pharmaceutical corporation Moderna has started a mid-stage study, aimed at testing a booster dose of its coronavirus vaccine specifically designed to target the Omicron strain. The news came one day after rival Pfizer launched a similar trial, Al Jazeera has learned.

On Wednesday, Moderna said that while a third shot of its original COVID-19 vaccine increased neutralising antibodies against the variant at the lower dose, their levels declined six months after the booster dose was administered. At the same time, neutralising antibodies remained detectable in all participants, the experts insist.

Omicron has quickly become dominant in many parts of the world, driving up infections and straining healthcare systems. According to researchers, multiple studies have indicated that Omicron results in a less severe COVID-19 than seen during previous waves.

Additionally, three studies, led by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have shown that a third dose of an mRNA vaccine, such as those from Pfizer and Moderna, is key to fighting the Omicron variant.

Some countries have already started offering additional booster doses, but a recent study from Israel showed that while a fourth dose of an mRNA vaccine boosted antibodies, the level was not high enough to prevent an Omicron infection.

On Jan 25, Pfizer and its partner BioNTech have already started a clinical trial  to test a special vaccine tailored to the Omicron version. It promises to share its data from the trial with public health leaders, so they can make evidence-based decisions on the best booster strategy against the COVID-19.