The pharmaceutical company Moderna on Monday announced that the initial tests of its COVID booster specifically targeting the Omicron variant known as BA.5 show it is more effective than previous shots.
BA.5 has become the main strain of the virus but early data shows that it can slip past antibodies created by other vaccines or by even having gotten the virus before. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the variant now makes up 53.6% of sequenced cases.
“We are very pleased that our bivalent platform continues to demonstrate better performance than the current booster,” Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said in a statement.
Researchers collected data from 800 participants in the trial, which tested various formulations of the booster. Moderna said the second formulation of its booster generated “nearly 70% more antibodies effective against BA.5 than a previous version did a month after receival of the dose,” the Daily Mail reported.
Last month, a panel of independent advisers that works with the Food and Drug Administration recommended producing new COVID vaccines to target the Omicron variant.
By a 19-2 vote, the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee approved a plan to have new vaccines ready by early October. The panel said the newly formulated vaccines are needed because new subvariants of the Omicron strain appear to be able to bypass antibodies delivered via previous vaccines.
That would mean Americans could be urged to take a fourth shot, with fifth shots for the immunocompromised and people over 50 years old.
The move comes as a new COVID wave is starting in New York City, and a top epidemiologist there says it’s from one of the stronger subvariants of Omicron.
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, has been morphing to stay alive — and there are now at least 11 variants and subvariants, according to one health site. Scientists have noted that various vaccines out there — all created to battle the original strain — are less effective against newer variants.
This week, two pharmaceutical giants, Pfizer and BioNTech, announced they are working together to create a new super “universal” vaccine that will target multiple variants of the virus.
“A universal coronavirus vaccine has the potential to better protect against future variants of SARS-CoV-2 as well as other coronaviruses that have the potential to spill over into the human population,” Dr. Jarrod Mousa, assistant professor at the Center for Vaccines and Immunology at the University of Georgia, told Medical News Today.
Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent for a national newspaper. He was also the a.m. editor of the Drudge Report for four years. Send tips to [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @josephcurl.