The New Moderna Vaccine Booster Could Be the "Turning Point" For the Pandemic

With COVID-19 cases surging again, many people are wondering what the future of the global pandemic will look like in the United States. Amid the uncertainty, however, a recently authorized antiviral treatment and a new Moderna booster expected to arrive in the fall have experts suggesting there could be an end in sight.

Early Wednesday, Moderna officials announced that its new bivalent booster offers a stronger antibody response to omicron than the company's current vaccine's, according to ABC News. Moderna Chief Medical Officer Paul Burton, MD, told the outlet, "Given the magnitude of effect — that seven-fold increase in antibody levels — we could for the first time, be at a vaccine that is truly effective with once yearly dosing because we know those antibody levels will decay." Dr. Burton noted that, based on the available data, he believes this new booster is a "turning point" for the global pandemic.

This bivalent booster combines the original Moderna shot with a vaccine specifically targeting omicron. "It's highly effective," Dr. Burton said. CNN reported that the new booster's side effects are similar to those of Moderna's current booster doses, meaning individuals can expect fever, headache, fatigue, and pain at the site of the injection.

Though this is very exciting news, it's important to note that Moderna has not requested authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just yet, though the drugmaker would like to "as quickly as possible," Dr. Burton said. As for when the booster could become authorized by the FDA, the organization "aims to take action on an application within six months," according to its website.

In a news release, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said, "Looking at these data alongside the durability we saw with our first bivalent booster candidate, mRNA-1273.211, we anticipate more durable protection against variants of concern with mRNA-1273.214, making it our lead candidate for a Fall 2022 booster." The FDA will meet June 28 to discuss vaccine modifications for later this year.

As previously mentioned, this exciting announcement comes shortly after the FDA authorized an antiviral treatment called Paxlovid for emergency-use treatment of "mild-to-moderate COVID-19" cases. Studies conducted by the drugmaker showed that Paxlovid was, according to NPR, "nearly 90% effective at cutting the risks of getting hospitalized or dying because of COVID" for "unvaccinated people at risk of serious COVID medical risk factors." (To learn more about Paxlovid, you can find more answers here.)

For more information or to stay up to date with COVID-19 news, you can visit the CDC's website.