WEDNESDAY, June 8, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- Moderna announced Wednesday that its updated COVID-19 booster shot does a better job at thwarting the Omicron variant than the original version does.
"We are thrilled to share the preliminary data analysis on mRNA-1273.214, which is the second demonstration of superiority of our bivalent booster platform against variants of concern and represents an innovation in the fight against COVID," Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a company news release.
"Looking at these data alongside the durability we saw with our first bivalent booster candidate, mRNA-1273.211, we anticipate more durable protection against variants of concern with mRNA-1273.214, making it our lead candidate for a Fall 2022 booster. We are submitting our preliminary data and analysis to regulators with the hope that the Omicron-containing bivalent booster will be available in the late summer," Bancel added.
The results on the updated vaccine were impressive: A booster dose combining the original vaccine with the one specifically aimed at Omicron led to 1.75 times more neutralizing antibodies against Omicron a month after the shot.
It's not clear if the updated vaccine will provide more lasting protection than the current one.
Moderna did not release any data from the clinical trial, which included 437 volunteers, on the updated vaccine's effectiveness against the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, which now account for 13% of new cases in the United States and are spreading quickly.
Some estimates suggest that within a month, they could outcompete the two other Omicron subvariants — BA.2 and BA.2.12.1 — that are dominant at the moment, The New York Times reported.
The BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants are now widespread in South Africa, which "has seen a slight uptick in hospitalizations, but ICU utilization and deaths are really staying stably low," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to the White House, told the Times.
Moderna is still gathering evidence on how the updated vaccine works against BA.4 or BA.5, but Dr. Paul Burton, the firm's chief medical officer, said he doesn't expect a major difference from the Omicron results.
"Omicron subvariants seem to behave pretty similarly," Burton told the Times.
"We really feel like this is a sort of a fundamental turning point in our fight against this virus — that we can adapt to a variant," Burton said. "It works."
Pfizer and BioNTech are also testing Omicron-specific vaccines and their results are expected soon, according to the Times.
The Biden administration would like to be able to offer an updated vaccine this fall to counter an expected winter surge of COVID-19. Outside advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are scheduled to meet June 28 to discuss the options.
Visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the latest on COVID vaccines.
SOURCES: The New York Times; Moderna, news release, June 8, 2022