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Moderna Stock Slides: Data Shows Booster Shot Defends Against Omicron Variant

Moderna said its current vaccine will be a 'first line of defense' against the rapidly-spreading Omicron variant.

Moderna  (MRNA) - Get Moderna, Inc. Report shares surged higher in pre-market trading after the drugmaker said booster shots of its coronavirus vaccine induced a big jump in antibodies that can fight against the Omicron variant.

Moderna said its mRNA-1273 vaccine can offer a 'first line of defense' against the rapidly-accelerating variant, which the World Health Organization has identified in 90 countries, noting that a 50 microgram booster given to those with two prior shots increased neutralizing antibodies against Omicron by 37 times, whereas an 100 micogram dose induced a reaction that was 80 times greater.

The drugmaker also said it will continue to develop an Omicron-specific vaccine, with clinical trials expected in early 2022.  

“The dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases from the Omicron variant is concerning to all. However, these data showing that the currently authorized Moderna COVID-19 booster can boost neutralizing antibody levels 37-fold higher than pre-boost levels are reassuring,” said CEO Stéphane Bancel. “To respond to this highly transmissible variant, Moderna will continue to rapidly advance an Omicron-specific booster candidate into clinical testing in case it becomes necessary in the future."

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"We will also continue to generate and share data across our booster strategies with public health authorities to help them make evidence-based decisions on the best vaccination strategies against SARS-CoV-2,” he added  

Moderna shares were marked 3.3% lower in mid-day trading to change hands at $284.82 each.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's leading infectious disease expert, told NBC's 'Meet the Press' Sunday that Omicron is now "raging through the world", making the need for Americans to get a third vaccination dose more crucial than ever. 

The WHO said Omicron infections are doubling every 1.5 to 3 days, while U.S. health officials have said its been identified in at least 43 of the nation's 50 states.

Moderna said last week that its developing seasonal flu vaccine showed promising data from a recent early stage trial while showing no significant side-effects. A phase 2 study is now fully-enrolled, Moderna said, with plans for a phase 3 study also underway.

The early data, however, appears to match that of rival Novavax  (NVAX) - Get Novavax, Inc. Report, which published updated details from a phase 3 study of its NanoFlu vaccine in September, as well as the Fluzone HD offering from France-based Sanofi  (SNY) - Get Sanofi Report