Experts see no need yet for Omicron-specific booster shot | Inquirer News
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Experts see no need yet for Omicron-specific booster shot

/ 12:49 PM February 23, 2022
PGC: Almost all sequenced COVID-19 samples in January are Omicron

A vial and a syringe are seen in front of a displayed stock graph and words “Omicron SARS-CoV-2” in this illustration taken, November 27, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/file photo

MANILA, Philippines — Members of the country’s Vaccine Expert Panel (VEP) don’t see the need to use the Omicron-specific vaccine booster of Moderna Inc. because its original COVID-19 vaccine still provides sufficient protection against this variant.

Citing initial data, VEP member Dr. Mario Jiz said Wednesday that based on a study on non-human primates, boosting with the original Moderna shot and the Omicron-specific booster both leads to “comparable and significant” increases in neutralizing antibody responses against the highly transmissible variant.

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“The booster that we are giving now is effective against Omicron so we don’t need to have an Omicron specific vaccine for now kasi (because) the current vaccines that we have are already effective against Omicron,” Jiz said in an online media forum hosted by the Department of Health.

“So far, the data is suggesting na hindi natin kailangan gamitin ‘yung (that we don’t need to use the) Omicron-specific vaccine kasi (because) boosting with the regular, original Moderna vaccine is already sufficient,” he added.

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Jiz explained that as our immune system “matures,” we may also have “more breadth and width of antibody response.”

“Following either boost, the study showed up to 80 percent of spike-specific B cells were cross reactive against the original strain and the Omicron strain, so ito ‘yung sinasabi natin na (this is what we are saying that) as our immune system matures, you will have more breadth and width of antibody response,” he said.

“We can eliminate more cross-reactive variants if we give our immune system some time,” he added.

Meanwhile, Dr. Rontgene Solante, also a member of VEP, said that the Philippines may have to wait for more data on the efficacy of Moderna’s Omicron-specific booster on humans.

“I think the human-based study of the Omicron variant specific booster is ongoing and that we want to really wait for, because if what Dr. Mario tells us that the immunogenicity in the animal phase of the study is the same as that with the original Moderna vaccine, then it will be interesting on how it will be in the human studies,” said Solante.

“And we know that the only advantage of an Omicron specific (vaccine) is it is variant specific, but we know now also that with this regular vaccine, it also has protection against Omicron, so we need to wait for that data,” he added.

Solante said Moderna’s data on the efficacy of its Omicron-specific booster may be helpful because we may deal longer with the Omicron variant, especially its BA.2 sub-lineage, towards the pandemic.

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In January, Moderna announced that it has begun the clinical trials of its booster shot designed specifically to combat Omicron, which will be evaluated as both a third and a fourth dose. At the time, the world, including the Philippines, was grappling with skyrocketing coronavirus cases due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

Moderna president Stephen Hoge said in December last year that the company may be ready to file for US authorization of its booster dose as soon as March 2022.

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TAGS: coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19 Vaccine, Dr. Mario Jiz, Dr. Rontgene Solante, Moderna, Omicron variant
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