A healthcare worker fills a syringe with Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the Giorgio Companies site in Blandon, Pennsylvania, where CATE’s Mobile Vaccination Unit was on site to administer Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to workers, April 14, 2021.
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Moderna published clinical data on Tuesday showing that a new version of its Covid-19 vaccine that targets several mutations produced a stronger immune response against major variants of the virus, including omicron and delta, than the company’s current injections.
The biotech company’s redesigned vaccine targets nine mutations found in the beta variant of Covid, as well as the original strain of the virus that first emerged in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. Four of the mutations that the updated vaccine targets are shared with omicron. modern Y Pfizer they are developing new injections that target multiple variants of the virus in hopes of producing vaccines that provide longer-lasting protection against infection.
Current vaccines were developed to recognize the spike protein, which the virus uses to invade human cells, from the Wuhan strain of Covid. But the more the spike protein has evolved, the less likely it is that the antibodies produced by the vaccine will be able to recognize the virus and fight it off, reducing the effectiveness of injections. Two doses of the original vaccines still provide strong protection against hospitalization, although the effectiveness against serious illness has also decreased. Third injections of the current vaccine also increase protection against infection and hospitalization.
A 50-microgram dose of Moderna’s new vaccine doubled the antibodies, which prevent the virus from infecting human cells, against the omicron variant six months after injection compared with the original booster at the same dose, the data indicated. The upgraded injection also increased antibody levels against the delta variant six months after injection, although these were lower than the response seen with omicron and did not show superior results compared to the original booster. The data has not been paired review by outside scientists.
The most common side effects of the updated 50-microgram injection were muscle and injection-site pain, fatigue and headache, according to the data.
The clinical trial included 895 participants who received a single booster dose of the updated vaccine with either a 50-microgram or 100-microgram dose. The average age of the participants was around 50 years, of which 56% were women. The majority of the trial population was white, while 13% were Hispanic and 6% black in the group that received the 50-microgram dose.
Moderna is developing an additional vaccine that includes the Wuhan strain and 32 mutations present in the omicron Covid variant. CEO Stephane Bancel said the injection is the company’s top candidate for a drop booster in the Northern Hemisphere, which includes the US and Europe. The company expects initial data on that shot in the second quarter of this year.
Bancel, in a statement, said data from the beta variant vaccine show that upgrading vaccines to target mutations is the right strategy to fight covid in the future.
The Food and Drug Administration’s top vaccine official, Dr. Peter Marks, told the agency’s advisory committee earlier this month that the US has until June to decide whether new Covid shots targeting mutations are needed before an expected wave of infection in the fall.
However, some FDA committee members were skeptical about the need for new vaccines at this time, noting that current vaccines are still effective in preventing serious illness. Federal officials told the committee that Moderna, Pfizer and other vaccine makers are not currently coordinating their clinical studies on redesigned vaccines, which could complicate the process of selecting the most effective vaccine for the fall.
Several members of the FDA committee said that public health authorities should develop a unified approach to adopting a new formula for Covid vaccines, similar to the process for selecting new flu vaccines each year, in order to attack the strain. more prevalent.
“At some level, business dictates the conversation here,” committee member Dr. Paul Offit said during the April 7 meeting. “You often hear that the company now has an omicron-specific vaccine, or a vaccine that they can now link to the influenza vaccine. It shouldn’t come from them, it really has to come from us.”
However, developing new injections to target Covid mutations could prove challenging, given how quickly the virus evolves. Trevor Bedford, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, told the FDA committee that the Covid virus is evolving two to 10 times faster than the flu, depending on which strain of the latter virus is used for comparison. .