The CEO of Moderna told Reuters on Wednesday that an Omicron-specific booster could be ready by August, but the firm is still gathering clinical data to determine whether that vaccine would offer better protection than a new dose of the existing jab.
Moderna recently began clinical trials for a booster dose specifically designed to target Omicron but initial results from studies in monkeys show the Omicron-specific shot may not offer stronger protection than a new dose of the existing vaccine.
Moderna chief executive Stephane Bancel told Reuters in an interview the company aimed to have a booster ready by August 2022, before next autumn when he said more vulnerable people may need it.
"We believe a booster will be needed. I don't know yet if it is going to be the existing vaccine, Omicron-only, or bivalent: Omicron and existing vaccine, two mRNA in one dose," he said, adding a decision would be made in the coming months when clinical data becomes available.
Bancel also confirmed that under the best-case scenario Moderna would have ready by August 2023 a so-called pan-vaccine which would protect simultaneously against COVID-19, flu and other respiratory diseases.
Pfizer and BioNTech have also recently begun enrollment for a clinical trial to test the safety and immune response of their Omicron-specific COVID-19 vaccine in adults aged up to 55.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said last month that the vaccine that targets the Omicron variant of COVID-19 will be ready in March, and the company has already begun manufacturing the doses.
“This vaccine will be ready in March. We [are] already starting manufacturing some of these quantities at risk,” he told CNBC.
Bourla said the vaccine will also target the other variants that are circulating. He said it is still not clear whether or not an Omicron vaccine is needed or how it would be used, but Pfizer will have some doses ready since some countries want it ready as soon as possible.
The Pfizer CEO said in November that three doses of the Pfizer vaccine would remain effective even against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, but added that a new vaccine specifically made to combat the new strain could be ready in 100 days.