Moderna says the new booster increases protection against omicron sub-variants

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Vaccine maker Moderna announced Monday that a new booster vaccine that targets the omicron enhances a main line of immune defense by increasing levels of anti-coronavirus antibodies that block BA.5. This omicron variant predominated in the United States until recently and still accounts for approximately one-third of reported cases.

Moderna said in a press release that in blood taken from subjects who received the bivalent booster, levels of the omicron-blocking antibodies rose 15 times higher than their levels before the booster. The results, which have not yet been peer-reviewed, are similar to those presented this month by Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, about a bivalent coronavirus vaccine.

The data is encouraging because it shows that the bivalent booster shots, which have been updated to match the BA.4 and BA.5 versions of the omicron variant and began appearing in September, provide protection against novel coronavirus variants ahead of a possible winter wave of cases.

Moderna also said that an initial analysis with a small number of people showed that the antibodies generated by the bivalent enhancer lost some potency against the challenging and fast-growing BQ.1.1 variant — but it can still block it. BQ.1.1 makes up about a quarter of cases in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Development is a dangerous thing to bet on. The virus continues to surprise us, and we need to be prepared to update the vaccine,” said Stephen Hogg, president of Moderna.

“I think we’re optimistic that this BA.4/BA.5 divalent will be enough to overtake us,” Hoge said.

Our Modern Advertisement Will Be Interesting Scientists are considering future boosting strategies because makers of the two RNA coronavirus vaccines have now reported converging results showing that their divalent shots lead to a stronger response than their original formulations.

But the news is somewhat of an artificial comparison to the general public because those original reinforcements are no longer available. The decision to switch over the summer was made to ensure adequate supplies were in place to vaccinate people with the updated shots before a possible winter increase in the number of cases.

It is also It’s unclear if the data will help spark public interest in reinforcers. Only about 10 percent of people age 5 and older in the United States She got a divalent booster, according to CDC data.

To measure the effect of the extra shot, the scientists compared the interferon-blocking antibodies in the blood of 511 people, before and after the bivalent or original booster. What these types of lab experiments can’t predict is how well or how long elevated antibody levels will protect people from infection or severe illness. Most scientists expect that boosters will help enhance protection against the worst outcomes but will not provide strong protection against infection.

Moderna reported that its bivalent enhancer created five to six times the level of antibodies compared to the older booster. This is a stronger feature than the effects of the previous bivalent booster that was set to fight the BA.1 variant. But some scientists have questioned whether the differences between the two groups of people who received each type of shot could be partly responsible for some of the advantages.

By contrast, Novavax, a latecomer in the vaccine race, provided data last week indicating that a bivalent booster from a shot that included the omicron variant BA.1 offered no advantage over its original booster.

The company did not provide data for a bivalent vaccine containing BA.4/BA.5, but argued that the original shot could continue to provide protection, rather than an updated formula. It is unclear why there are divergent results. Novavax’s chief medical officer, Philip Dubowski, said last week that the company’s shot may induce a broader response to the variants, which is then reinforced by repeated enhancements to the old formula. Unlike the widely used mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, Novavax is a protein-based vaccine with an additive called an adjuvant designed to stimulate the immune system.

Novavax said it may update its image if required by regulators.

“We are kind of ready to respond to whatever is needed,” Dubowski said. “But we actually think we have a case that sticking with what we have now, and that seems to work now, is the way to go into the future.”

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