Moderna, a leading COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer, has released promising clinical trial data regarding its updated vaccine’s effectiveness against the highly-mutated BA.2.86 subvariant of the coronavirus. This subvariant has raised concerns about the possibility of a resurgence in infections, prompting increased monitoring by health organizations.
The clinical trial results indicate that Moderna’s vaccine led to an impressive 8.7-fold increase in neutralizing antibodies against the BA.2.86 subvariant. This boost in immunity is seen as a positive development in the ongoing battle against evolving strains of the virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been closely tracking the BA.2.86 subvariant due to its substantial genetic differences from the dominant XBB.1.5 variant observed in 2023. The BA.2.86 subvariant carries over 35 mutations, making it a key focus for vaccine updates.
Jacqueline Miller, Moderna’s head of infectious diseases, emphasized the significance of these findings. She noted that this data is likely to encourage individuals to consider receiving fall booster shots to enhance their protection against emerging variants. Furthermore, the positive results are expected to provide assurance to regulatory authorities, paving the way for the updated vaccine’s approval.
Previously, the CDC had expressed concerns that the BA.2.86 subvariant might pose a heightened risk of infection for individuals who had previously contracted COVID-19 or received earlier vaccine versions. Moderna has submitted its trial data for peer review and regulatory evaluation. The updated vaccine is anticipated to receive approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) either later this month or in early October.
Moderna, along with other vaccine manufacturers like Novavax and Pfizer in collaboration with BioNTech, has been actively working on vaccines targeting the XBB.1.5 subvariant. Recent testing has indicated the effectiveness of Moderna’s and Pfizer’s updated vaccines against another subvariant, EG.5.
While European regulators have granted approval to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, there has been no official announcement regarding the approval of Moderna’s updated vaccine for use in Europe. The BA.2.86 subvariant has been detected in several countries, including Switzerland, South Africa, Israel, Denmark, the United States, and Britain, according to WHO reports.
Despite concerns surrounding the emergence of new variants, experts believe that widespread vaccination and the immunity acquired from previous infections will likely prevent a significant increase in severe cases and fatalities. Following the announcement of these promising results, Moderna’s stock prices experienced a slight increase, reaching $109.89.
This development underscores the critical importance of adapting and optimizing vaccines to address evolving variants of the coronavirus, emphasizing the ongoing need for vigilance in the fight against the pandemic.