Omicron-specific booster may be unnecessary, early research suggests

A version of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine tailored to target the omicron variant generated similar levels of immunity in monkeys as the current booster formulation, according to preliminary research from the National Institutes of Health.

The findings suggest an omicron-specific vaccine may not be necessary, researchers said. In the lab study, both vaccines protected the monkeys' lower airways from the variant and spurred similar immune responses.

"It doesn't appear to be, at this stage, like influenza — where changing the vaccine would be required. I don't think we're there yet," lead author Robert Seder, MD, chief of the cellular immunology section at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told The Washington Post.

Researchers said human data is still needed to confirm this finding. If omicron remains dominant and future variants emerge from that lineage, tailored booster shots may be necessary, Dr. Seder said. 

The findings come a week after Moderna and Pfizer both launched clinical trials for omicron-specific vaccines. 

Researchers at the NIAID's Vaccine Research Center conducted the study, which was posted Feb. 4 on the medical preprint server BioRxiv. The study has not been peer reviewed. 

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