Moderna announces promising results from next-generation Covid vaccine trials

·3-min read

Moderna’s next generation Covid-19 jab could mean that people will only need one annual booster, the pharmaceutical firm has said as it released promising results from trials of its bivalent vaccine, which targets both the original Covid strain and the Omicron variant.

The US firm said early clinical trials on 437 people had shown the jab led to an eight-fold jump in the levels of Omicron-specific “neutralising” antibodies compared to people who had not received a booster.

The vaccine, which Moderna has said is its lead candidate for an autumn booster programme, also worked well when compared with a shot of Moderna’s original vaccine.

Other firms are also working on vaccines that more specifically target Omicron after the variant was found to evade some of the protection offered by the first crop of vaccines.

Experts hope the newer jabs could help protect against a wider range of variants and may be helpful in protecting against new variants that might emerge.

Stephane Bancel, chief executive officer of Moderna, said: “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.”

Moderna’s chief medical officer Dr Paul Burton said that the new vaccine can boost a person’s antibodies to such high levels that a booster may only be needed annually.

British adults are currently able to book a booster three months after getting their first round of vaccines, usually delivered as two jabs.

Dr Burton said: “I think for the first time we could really be looking at that potential for just once yearly boosting because we can get people to such a high (antibody) level that (their antibody level) will just take longer to decay.”

He said that Moderna will be applying for UK approval for the jab in the next couple of weeks and was creating “very large supplies” of the jab in preparation for autumn booster programmes.

Dr Burton told a press conference that the bivalent jab has an “excellent” safety profile.

In the trial, 437 patients were given a fourth dose of the adapted Modern vaccine and researchers noted an eight-fold increase in antibodies a month after getting the jab.

And he said that people who had Covid before getting their fourth vaccine had even higher levels of antibodies.

He said that public health measures, such as mask use in crowded spaces, social distancing an hand washing – were still important to keep infection levels down.

“I think you’ve got a couple the two,” he said.

“We can keep developing great vaccines are going to keep people safe and away from severe disease, but in those settings with public health measures would be advantageous.

“I think bringing the two together would be the best approach.

“To really bringing down infection broadly,” he said.

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