Moderna working on COVID-19 booster that targets omicron variant, says CEO

The CEO of Moderna Stephane Bancel is seen in this video frame grab as he speaks during an interview with AFP on Nov. 17, 2020. Ivan Couronne/AFP via Getty Images/TNS

An omicron-specific booster shot could be ready by the fall, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said Monday.

The pharmaceutical company is currently working on a targeted shot for the newest COVID-19 variant, Bancel announced. The booster is about to enter clinical trials.

On CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” Bancel said the shot could in pharmacies and arms as early as the fall.

“We need to be careful to try to stay ahead of a virus and not behind the virus,” she said.

The current Moderna booster shot, a half dose, increases neutralizing antibody levels against omicron 37-fold over the second shot. A full dose increases effectiveness 100-fold.

Omicron is believed to be more transmissible than the previous delta variant and the skyrocketing cases have shut down hospitals, schools and other businesses. But, as opposed to delta, the availability of the vaccine has meant that infections are causing less severe symptoms or presenting as asymptomatic altogether.

Moderna has already signed advanced purchase agreements worth $18.5 billion with the United Kingdom, South Korea, Switzerland for shots as soon as they’re available.

The struggle, Bancel said, has been getting the vaccine to less developed countries. Of the 807 million doses delivered by Moderna so far, only about 25% have gone to low- and middle-income countries.

Moderna is also expanding its mRNA technology into trying to treat other illnesses, the company said Monday, including other respiratory viruses.

“We look forward to further leveraging our mRNA technology and delivery into gene-editing and other ways to impact human health,” Bancel said in a statement.

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