Moderna’s Booster Shot Targeting Omicron And Original Strain Could Be Available Late Summer After Promising Trials


Moderna is hoping to launch a new Covid booster shot this Fall that targets both the original coronavirus strain and omicron variant after promising early results from clinical trials, the company announced Wednesday, as public health officials, scientists and pharmaceutical firms all move to anticipate what Covid will look like in the future.

Key Facts

Preliminary results from a study testing Moderna’s bivalent Covid-19 vaccine—a type of vaccine with two different targets, in this case the original coronavirus strain and the omicron variant—in 437 people suggest it provides more “durable protection against variants of concern,” said chief executive Stéphane Bancel.

A dose of the bivalent booster sparked an eight-fold jump in the levels of omicron-specific “neutralizing” antibodies—which can target the virus and stop it from replicating—compared to people who had not received a booster, Moderna said.

Compared to a booster dose of Moderna’s original vaccine formula, the bivalent booster also provoked higher levels of neutralizing antibodies against both omicron and the original strain one month after getting the shot, the firm added.

Levels of binding antibodies—which attach to the virus and flag it to the immune system to be dealt with—for variants of concern like alpha, beta, gamma, delta and omicron were also “significantly higher” among the people who received the bivalent booster versus the original shot, Moderna said.

Bancel said the results mark “an innovation in the fight against Covid” and that the shot, named mRNA-1273.214, is Moderna’s “lead candidate for a Fall 2022 booster.”

Moderna said it plans to submit data to regulators for review “in the coming weeks” and will report additional data covering a longer time span since the booster was given after summer.

What To Watch For

New Moderna booster. Bancel said he hopes the omicron-containing bivalent booster will be available in late summer. This will allow it to be used as part of a Fall booster campaign, the company said.


The original-omicron bivalent booster is the second bivalent Covid-19 shot Moderna has been developing. Preliminary data suggested the other bivalent shot—targeting the original strain and beta variant—also provides more durable protection against variants of concern, including omicron, compared to the original formula alone. Moderna said it also plans to submit interim data on this shot to regulators in the coming weeks.

Key Background

The shots and boosters in widespread use today are the same ones designed to target the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 discovered back in 2019. The viruses circulating and causing disease have changed significantly in the time since that discovery. While the shots are still broadly effective at preventing serious illness and death, some variants have managed to partly evade the protection they convey, particularly omicron. Most major Covid vaccine makers—including Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax—have been working on omicron-specific shots to address fading effectiveness against the variant, some of which have been bundled into the same shot, as Moderna’s bivalent approach illustrates. Producing new vaccines for when they are needed has always been something of a guessing game as to what will be needed and one pharmaceutical firms and public health officials are familiar with for seasonal diseases like the flu. It’s possible that omicron may not be the most concerning variant of Covid come Fall. Experts say this lag between identifying a variant to tackle and actually producing, testing, making and distributing a new shot, alongside the questionable practicality of continual boosting, makes us vulnerable and justifies efforts to create a more durable Covid vaccine that could target parts of the virus common across variants.

Further Reading

The U.S. Is About to Make a Big Gamble on Our Next COVID Winter (Atlantic)

We Cannot ‘Boost Our Way Out’ Of The Covid Pandemic, Experts Warn (Forbes)

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