Moderna: Data on Omicron-specific vaccine expected in two months

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 29) — Moderna is expecting to have data on its vaccine specific for the highly contagious Omicron variant in two months, a company official told CNN Philippines.

Speaking to The Final Word, Moderna Chief Medical Officer Dr. Paul Burton said they already started their study on Wednesday (US time), which involves around 600 participants.

"We think probably, we can start producing middle of the year, scale up production. So from June-July onwards into the autumn, we should be able to begin manufacturing," he added.

The COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer earlier announced that the first participant for the trial has been dosed this week for the Phase 2 clinical trial of their Omicron-specific booster shot. This is after research published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that a booster dose of the vaccine remained effective against the variant despite showing signs of waning antibody protection.

Despite this, Burton emphasized that the best protection comes from primary vaccination, plus a booster dose. Citing observations in other countries, getting these shots would lead to a 97% reduced chance of getting hospitalized or even dying from the infection.

If a vaccinated and boosted person catches COVID-19, "it will be far less severe and far more manageable," he added.

Considering the waning protection, Burton said an additional booster may be needed by September to October this year.

In the Philippines, recent surveys revealed that vaccine hesitancy has been decreasing, while four out of five vaccinated Filipinos are also willing to get their boosters.

READ: SWS: Vaccine hesitancy among Filipinos drops further

READ: COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy drops further nationwide — OCTA Research

Latest data showed over 58 million people in the Philippines are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19 while 6.8 milion individuals have already received their booster shots.

Burton said the coronavirus won't be eradicated, but people can learn to live with it by following health standards and getting the vaccine doses.

"If ever there was a time to get vaccinated and get boosted, it's now," he said. "The best thing you can do for yourself, for your loved one - get vaccinated and get boosted."