Moderna exec says company could have omicron booster ready in March

Moderna could have a booster shot targeting the omicron variant ready for approval by March, according to the head of the company.

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Stephen Hoge, Moderna’s president, said Wednesday that a booster that targets the mutations in the newly-discovered omicron variant would be the best way to address any waning efficacy in the COVID-19 vaccine.

News of the first U.S. COVID-19 case caused by the omicron variant was announced on Wednesday. The infected person, who is in California, recently returned from a trip to South Africa, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We’ve already started that program,” Hoge told Reuters.

According to Hoge, the company is also working on a multivalent vaccine that would include up to four coronavirus variants, including the omicron variant that came to the world’s attention just last week.

That vaccine could take several more months to develop and gain approval, Hoge said. However, Hoge said he thinks the existing vaccines “will be able to slow down, if not completely stop, the omicron variant.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical advisor to the president, echoed Hoge’s comments about the likelihood that the current vaccines would be effective against the omicron variant.

“Our experience with variants such as the delta variant is that even though the vaccine isn’t specifically targeted to the delta variant, when you get a high enough level of an immune response, you get spillover protection even against a variant that the vaccine wasn’t specifically directed at,” Fauci said Wednesday.