Moderna says its booster significantly ups omicron-neutralizing antibody levels

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FILE – This Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020 file photo shows a vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in the first round of staff vaccinations at a hospital in Denver. U.S. health advisers are debating if millions of Americans who received Moderna vaccinations should get a booster shot — this time, using half the original dose. Already millions who got their initial Pfizer shots at least six months ago are getting a booster of that brand. On Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021, advisers to the Food and Drug Administration evaluated the evidence that Moderna boosters should be offered, too — and on Friday, they’ll tackle the same question for those who got Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Moderna on Monday morning said data from studies of its booster shot showed that the third dose of the COVID vaccine significantly significantly increased antibody levels against the omicron variant.

According to the company, the currently authorized half-dose booster shot increased omicron-neutralizing antibodies approximately 37-fold, compared to pre-boost levels, in recent lab tests.

And a full-dose booster was even stronger, triggering an 83-fold jump in antibody levels, although with an increase in the usual side effects, the company said. While half-dose shots are being used for most Moderna boosters, a full-dose third shot has been recommended for people with weakened immune systems.

Moderna announced the preliminary laboratory data in a press release and it hasn’t yet undergone scientific review. But testing by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, announced last week by Dr. Anthony Fauci, found a similar jump.

Pfizer’s testing likewise found its COVID-19 vaccine triggered a similarly big jump in omicron-fighting antibodies. The vaccines made by Pfizer and by Moderna, both made with mRNA technology, are used by many countries around the world to fight the coronavirus.

Both Moderna and Pfizer are developing shots to better match the omicron variant in case they’re needed.

“Moderna will continue to rapidly advance an omicron-specific booster candidate into clinical testing in case it becomes necessary in the future,” said Stéphane Bancel, chief executive officer of the drugmaker.

Together, the available evidence backs health authorities’’ increasing pleas for people to get their boosters as soon as they’re eligible.

Antibody levels predict how well a vaccine may prevent infection with the coronavirus but they are just one layer of the immune system’s defenses. Other research suggests the vaccine still should induce good protection against severe disease if people do experience a breakthrough infection.

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