Moderna booster jab increases antibodies against Omicron 37-fold

By Claire Schofield
Monday, 20th December 2021, 12:57 pm
Updated Monday, 20th December 2021, 12:58 pm
The Moderna booster jab increases antibodies against Omicron 37-fold (Photo: Getty Images)
The Moderna booster jab increases antibodies against Omicron 37-fold (Photo: Getty Images)

A booster dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine increases antibody levels against the Omicron variant around 37-fold, a new study has found.

Moderna has said its preliminary data looking at Omicron is “reassuring”, but the firm is continuing to develop a vaccine that is specific to the variant.

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What did Moderna find?

Data from Moderna showed that 50mcg of the vaccine, which is the half-dose recommended by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) for the UK’s booster programme, increased neutralising antibody levels against Omicron approximately 37-fold compared to pre-boost levels.

A full dose of the vaccine increased antibody levels 83-fold.

However, the JCVI in the UK advised against using a full dose of the vaccine as a booster due to the increased risk of side-effects and because a UK study found a half dose still provided very strong protection.

The US Food and Drug Administration also recommends that Moderna is given as a half dose booster.

The new data included blood samples from 20 people given a Moderna boost of 50mcg or 100mcg, with the results analysed at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ (NIAID) Vaccine Research Centre at Duke University Medical Centre.

All groups involved in the study had low neutralising antibody levels to Omicron before receiving a booster. These levels were then assessed again 29 days after the booster jab was given.

Antibodies are not the only part of the immune system to tackle coronavirus, as experts believe that T cell immunity, which is harder to measure, also plays a key role in preventing severe disease.

Boosters hit record high levels

Booster vaccines administered in England hit record highs over the weekend, with more than 830,000 jabs given on Saturday (18 December).

A record 906,656 vaccine doses were given in total, including first and second jabs, NHS England said, 830,403 of which were boosters.

The UK government is aiming to offer all eligible adults a booster dose by 31 December, but a rate of around one million a day is needed to make the ambitious end of year target.

People are being urged to keep up the enthusiasm and get their jabs as soon as possible.