Moderna gave its ommicron-specific COVID-19 vaccine to its first clinical trial participant, the company announced Wednesday. The report comes a few days after Pfizer/BioNTech launched a trial of its shot targeting the fast-spreading variant.
The announcement coincides with the release of data showing that the two-dose series of Moderna’s original vaccine struggled to block the omicron variant of the virus, which has mutations that help it evade those antibodies. A booster shot restored much of its ability to neutralize the virus — and while that protection weakened over time, it lingered for at least another six months.
Still, Moderna’s CEO, Stéphane Bancel, said in a statement that the omicron variant poses a sufficient threat that the company plans to move forward with the variant booster.
The company is testing its ommicron booster in one group of people who received only a two-dose series of the original vaccine and a second group who had a two-dose series and a booster of the original vaccine. There will be approximately 300 participants per group.
Bancel said in early January that Moderna could have data on the ommicron booster ready by March.