Moderna says dual variant booster provides better protection

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Moderna Inc. said Tuesday that its modified COVID-19 booster vaccine candidate provides better protection against omicron and a number of virus variants than its currently available coronavirus vaccine.

The biotechnology company reported that a 50-microgram booster dose of its first "bivalent" booster vaccine candidate "demonstrated superiority against beta, delta and omicron variants of concern one month after administration."

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The data has not yet been vetted by independent experts.

Before the global emergence of omicron, Moderna was studying a combination shot that added protection against the beta variant. 

A health worker administers a dose of a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination clinic at the Norristown Public Health Center in Norristown, Pa., Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021.  (AP Photo/Matt Rourke / AP Newsroom)

"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," Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement. "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​."

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The 50-microgram booster dose of its bivalent booster vaccine candidate met Moderna's objectives, including superiority immunogenicity criteria against variants of concern when compared to its currently approved mRNA-1273 booster dose. 

Nearly 900 participants participated in the study, with 300 receiving the 50-microgram dose of the booster candidate with the rest getting the 100-microgram dose. The candidate was "generally well tolerated" and the 50-microgram dose of the booster candidate had a similar incidence of solicited adverse reactions and unsolicited adverse events with the authorized mRNA-1273 booster.

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"We believe that a bivalent booster vaccine, if authorized, would create a new tool as we continue to respond to emerging variants," Bancel said.

Moderna and Pfizer are both testing bivalent shots: a mix of the original vaccine and an omicron-targeted version.

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COVID-19 vaccines still are providing strong protection against severe disease, hospitalization and death, even against omicron. 

Americans 50 years old or older or those with a severely weakened immune system can get a second booster shot.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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