U.S.-based drugmaker Moderna says that initial laboratory tests show a third shot of its current COVID-19 vaccine is effective against the fast-spreading omicron variant of the coronavirus.
In a statement released Monday, the company said a half dose of the vaccine given as a booster increased the antibodies levels 37 fold, while a full dose of the vaccine — which is used in the full dose regimen — boosted antibodies levels over 80 fold.
Dr. Paul Burton, Moderna’s chief medical officer, says the study — which has not been peer-reviewed — proves the company’s vaccine is effective, “extremely safe” and “will protect people through the coming holiday period and through these winter months, when we’re going to see the most severe pressure of omicron.”
U.S. federal health officials authorized both the Moderna and the two-shot Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to be used as booster shots for all adults last month.
Moderna’s announcement comes a day after Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the United States, warned that omicron is “raging through the world” as he urged Americans to get vaccinated and get a booster shot.
The World Health Organization said Sunday that omicron, which was first detected last month in a handful of southern African nations, is now present in 89 countries.
New York state marked a third consecutive day of record-setting new infections Sunday with nearly 22,500 confirmed cases. The rising number of infections has triggered closures of numerous theater shows and restaurants in New York City in a scene reminiscent of March 2020 when COVID-19 first struck. Residents have been standing in long lines for hours at city-run testing sites.
The outbreak continues to affect three of the major professional sports leagues in North America. The National Hockey League postponed a total of 27 games Saturday and Sunday, and has postponed at least 12 more games through December 23 because they involved travel between the U.S and Canada. The National Football League was forced to move a handful of Sunday games to Monday and Tuesday due to widespread COVID-19 outbreaks among several teams, with more than 100 players combined entering the league’s health and safety protocols.
And the National Basketball Association announced it was postponing five games Sunday with players on a handful of teams testing positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total number of postponed games to seven.
The surge has also reached the halls of the U.S. Congress, with two prominent lawmakers, Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, both announcing Sunday they had tested positive. Warren and Booker each said they had been vaccinated and gotten a booster shot.
Meanwhile, Israel announced Monday that it has banned travel to 10 nations — Belgium, Canada, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States — due to the rapid spread of omicron. Under the country’s “red list,” Israelis who return from these nations are required to quarantine, even if they are vaccinated.
Israel’s health ministry reported 175 cases of the new variant on Sunday
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters.