Moderna (MRNA 0.48%), many investors' top pick among coronavirus stocks, made its shareholders happy with a 3.2% gain on Thursday. That well outpaced the 1.7% gain of the S&P 500 index on the day. A strong recommendation from a Food and Drug Administration panel was the big reason for the jump.
The FDA's vaccine and related biological products advisory committee voted in favor of recommending that the regulator authorize booster shots of Moderna's mRNA-1273 (also known as Spikevax) coronavirus vaccine. The poll result was unanimous, with all 19 panel members making the recommendation.
It should be stressed that an expert committee's recommendation, even a unanimous one, does not obligate the FDA to take the requested action. However, that is typically what happens.
Similar to the recently FDA-authorized boosters of Comirnaty, the vaccine developed by Pfizer (PFE -0.33%) and peer biotech BioNTech (BNTX 0.16%), the Moderna booster is advised for individuals 65 and older.
It is also appropriate for people in long-term care, and for individuals age 18 to 64 with underlying medical issues and/or significant risk of exposure due to the nature of their jobs.
One notable difference between the proposed Moderna booster and that of Pfizer/BioNTech's Comirnaty is that the former is only half the dose of the initial vaccination shots (mRNA-1273 and Comirnaty are two-dose vaccines).
In a press release published after the vote, Moderna quoted its CEO Stéphane Bancel as pointing out that the company's booster "shows robust antibody responses against the original virus, but also against the delta variant."
Although the numbers of cases and fatalities both in the U.S. and throughout the world continue to decline, we are still some distance from conquering the threat of the coronavirus. As with the committee's recommendation on the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, this is not only good news for the vaccine's developer, it should also be a boon to public health.