Omicron COVID-19 variant: Moderna announces strategy for addressing new variant

Moderna is testing existing vaccine boosters and looking at a variant-specific booster to address Omicron

Moderna on Friday unveiled its strategy for addressing the new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529 known as Omicron, joining competitors Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, who detailed plans of their own the same day.

The new Omicron variant was discovered in South Africa, and the World Health Organization has deemed it a highly transmissible "variant of concern" due to fears that it could be an escape variant that evades currently available coronavirus vaccines.

(Photo by Timothy A. Clary-Pool/Getty Images)

U.S. President Joe Biden addresses the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly on September 21, 2021 at U.N. headquarters in New York City. (Photo by Timothy A. Clary-Pool/Getty Images) ((Photo by Timothy A. Clary-Pool/Getty Images) / Getty Images)

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Also on Friday, the Biden administration moved to restrict travel from eight southern African countries in reaction to the emergence of Omicron.

Moderna said in a press release that it has already been testing a booster in healthy adults that contains twice the dosage amount currently authorized. The drug maker has also been "studying two multi-valent booster candidates in the clinic that were designed to anticipate mutations such as those that have emerged in the Omicron variant," the company said.

Moderna vaccine

This June 14, 2021, file photo shows a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine vial (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko) (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko / AP Newsroom)

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As the third prong of its strategy, Moderna says it will "rapidly advance an Omicron-specific booster candidate," nothing that the company "has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to advance new candidates to clinical testing in 60-90 days."

"From the beginning, we have said that as we seek to defeat the pandemic, it is imperative that we are proactive as the virus evolves," Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement. "The mutations in the Omicron variant are concerning and for several days, we have been moving as fast as possible to execute our strategy to address this variant."

vaccine

Havertown, PA. October 25 : A COVID-19 Vaccine clinic was held Monday October 25, 2021 at the Haverford Township Municipal Building for area first responders and those eligible for the booster shots of all three vaccines. More than 180 vaccines were (Pete Bannan/MediaNews Group/Daily Times via Getty Images / Getty Images)

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Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their joint mRNA vaccine against COVID-19 could be tweaked within 100 days to specifically counter Omicron, while Johnson & Johnson told FOX Business it is already testing its vaccine against the new variant.

FOX Business' Julia Musto and FOX News' Peter Aitken contributed to this report.