Modern Inc. announced on Wednesday that the COVID booster shot developed to fight Omicron has been modified and that its subvariants should be ready for public use by August.
The company is making shots of the vaccine, called mRNA-1273.214, before receiving regulatory approval so it can be ready to ship doses for the fall and winter when health experts worry that another wave of COVID-19 may hit soon.
“In the face of continued development of SARS-CoV-2, we are very excited that mRNA-1273.214, our prime booster candidate for degradation, showed high neutralizing titers against the BA.4 and BA.5 (Omicron) subvariants, which represent an imminent threat to global public health,” Moderna CEO Stephen Bancel said in a company news release.
Bancal further added, “We will present these data to regulators immediately and are preparing to supply our next-generation bivalent [targeted for the two variants] boosters starting in August, due to the Omicron subvariant in the early fall of SARS-CoV- 2 is preceded by a potential increase in infection”.
Already, the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants account for 35% of all reported infections in the United States, up from 23% a week ago, the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.
The vaccine targets both the omicron and the original strain of the virus, unlike the earlier vaccine that targeted the original strain. In the latest data released Wednesday by Moderna, the updated shot increased antibodies against the BA.4/BA.5 subvariants up to 5.4-fold above baseline in all participants, and up to 6.3-fold in a subset of participants. He had no detectable COVID antibodies in his blood before the shot.
Lavina Talukdar, head of investor relations at Moderna, told CBS News last week at the Goldman Sachs health care conference, “We really want to be prepared for the fall season later this year”. In the Northern Hemisphere, when we think susceptibility to infection will increase just because we spend more time indoors.
Talukdar said at the time that the product could be ready to ship “in late August, early September, by the October-ish deadline”.