New Moderna COVID vaccine effective against new variant, trial shows

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(NewsNation) — Clinical trial data showed an updated version of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine is likely to be effective against new variant of the virus, the drugmaker said Wednesday.

This data has now been shown to regulators and submitted for peer review.

Moderna, in a news release, said its vaccine generates an 8.7-fold increase in neutralizing antibodies in humans against BA.2.86..

“These results demonstrate that our updated COVID-19 vaccine generates a strong human immune response against the highly mutated BA.2.86 variant,” Moderna’s president, Dr. Stephen Hoge, said in a statement. “Moderna will continue to rapidly assess global public health threats and is committed to leveraging our mRNA platform against COVID-19.”

The updated vaccine is pending approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

BA.2.86 (Pirola) is currently being tracked by the Centers for Disease Control. The first official case of that variant was identified in July 24, and it has been seen in at least four states in the U.S. as well as other countries including Israel, Denmark, Britain, Switzerland and South Africa.

According to the CDC, the “highly mutated” BA.2.86 subvariant could be more capable of causing infections in people who have previously contracted COVID, or have been vaccinated. NewsNation partner The Hill reports that it is unclear if the strain causes more severe illness than others. Recent lab experiments, though, have suggested that people’s immune systems can recognize and fight off the variant better than offshoots of the XBB variant, CNN reported.

As of Wednesday, rival COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers Novavax and Pfizer had yet to release data on how their own updated vaccines perform against BA.2.86. Moderna, Novavax and Pfizer have been creating versions of the shots aimed at the XBB.1.5 subvariant, though, Reuters reports, and last month, both companies said their vaccines appear to be effective against another variant, EG.5.

In its announcement, Moderna said its new vaccine also showed a significant boost in neutralizing antibodies from the FL.1.5.1 variant.

“Taken together with our previously communicated results showing a similarly effective response against EG.5 and FL.1.5.1 variants, these data confirm that our updated COVID-19 vaccine will continue to be an important tool for protection as we head into the fall vaccination season,” Hoge said.

Recent CDC data shows COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths are starting to increase again, although numbers still remain lower than previous years of the pandemic.

Reuters contributed to this story.

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