Moderna: Omicron-targeted shot shows better response

In this Jan 9, 2021 file photo, vials of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine are placed next to a loaded syringe in Throop, Pennsylvania. (CHRISTOPHER DOLAN / THE TIMES-TRIBUNE VIA AP)

HELSINKI – Moderna Inc said on Wednesday a new version of its coronavirus vaccine produced a better immune response against Omicron than the original shot, as the drugmaker pursues a booster against a surge in infections in the fall season.

Moderna'S Omicron-targeted COVID-19 vaccine, which was given as a fourth dose in a trial that enrolled more than 800 people, raised virus-neutralizing antibodies by eight-fold against Omicron

The vaccine, which was given as a fourth dose in a trial that enrolled more than 800 people, raised virus-neutralizing antibodies by eight-fold against Omicron.

The company said it plans to submit data on the vaccine, which targets Omicron as well as the original coronavirus strain, to regulators in the coming weeks and the doses could be available to consumers in late summer, sending its shares up 3 percent.

Moderna president Stephen Hoge said the company was in touch with the US Food and Drug Administration and other regulators on the design of the study, which should make the filings a smooth process.

"We expect those to be relatively straightforward discussions and submissions," he said.

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It is not known if countries including the United States will adopt annual fall boosters, similar to the flu market.

"The data look quite comforting and convincing," said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

He said while he expects the FDA to authorize the vaccine, it is not known if the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will recommend the shot for all adults or for a subset of the population such as older people.

Chief Executive Stephane Bancel said the company had been ramping up manufacturing of the new booster with an aim to be ready to ship as early as August.

In the study, which did not measure vaccine effectiveness, the booster, the vaccine generated greater antibodies against the Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta variants compared to the original shot.

In this file photo taken on Oct 16, 2020, Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin wearing a face mask, arrives on the second day of a two days face-to-face EU summit, in Brussels. (JOHANNA GERON / POOL / AFP)

Finland

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Wednesday she has tested positive for COVID-19.

Marin, 36, tweeted that her temperature rose Tuesday night and a home test turned out positive, but her symptoms were mild.

The prime minister said that on account of her recent intense travel schedule, she had taken home tests regularly and the results had been negative earlier during the week.

A 6 year-old child is comforted by her mother as she receives her first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine by a medical assistant at the Child Health Associates office in Novi, Michigan on Nov 3, 2021. (JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP)

US

Pre-orders of vaccines for children under age 5 have been slow, but Biden administration senior officials say they are not alarmed and expect the pace to pick up after federal approvals later this month.

The administration expects vaccinations of young children to begin in earnest as early as June 21, if the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approve the vaccines in separate meetings slated for next week, officials told reporters on Wednesday.

The vaccines will be distributed to pediatricians, children's hospitals, local pharmacies and local health clinics, officials said.

The administration has allowed states and others to pre-order from an initial batch of 5 million Moderna and Pfizer vaccines – 2.5 million each – as a way to expedite getting needles in arms.

Thus far, 58 percent of the available 2.5 million Pfizer vaccines have been ordered and just 34 percent of the Moderna vaccines, officials said.