Moderna launched its first trial for an Omicron-specific booster in adults, the company announced.
The trial will test the immune response and safety of the vaccine booster.
Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel previously projected the booster to be available as early as this fall.
The study marks Moderna's first trial testing the Omicron-specific booster in humans. The trial, which the company expects to enroll about 300 participants, will study the immunological response and safety of the shot, according to a press release.
"We are reassured by the antibody persistence against Omicron at six months after the currently authorized 50 µg booster of mRNA-1273," company CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement. "Nonetheless, given the long-term threat demonstrated by Omicron's immune escape, we are advancing our Omicron-specific variant vaccine booster candidate and we are pleased to begin this part of our Phase 2 study."
"We are also evaluating whether to include this Omicron-specific candidate in our multivalent booster program," Bancel continued. "We will continue to share data with public health authorities to help them make evidence-based decisions on the best booster strategies against SARS-CoV-2."
The Moderna executive first announced the company is working on a booster targeting the Omicron variant earlier this month in a bid "to stay ahead of a virus and not behind the virus."
Bancel previously projected that the booster could be available as early as this fall.
On January 10, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the company is already manufacturing doses of its own Omicron vaccine booster, which will be ready in March.
"The hope is that we will achieve something that will have way, way better protection particularly against infections, because the protection against the hospitalizations and the severe disease — it is reasonable right now, with the current vaccines as long as you are having let's say the third dose," Bourla told CNBC.
Both Bancel and Bourla said they believe people may need a fourth booster as the efficacy of the current booster likely wanes over time.
But top US infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said current boosters work against the Omicron coronavirus variant, and "at this point, there is no need for a variant-specific booster," he said at a press conference at the White House in December.
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