Moderna Says Its Updated COVID Vaccine Is Effective Against Emerging Variants

Moderna announced Wednesday that its updated COVID-19 vaccine is effective against emerging variants of the virus, including the Pirola variant.

The XBB.1.5 variant, also referred to as Kraken, has risen in prevalence this year. The World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are also keeping an eye on Pirola, which has over 30 mutations. According to the CDC, the Pirola variant is “notable because it has multiple genetic differences from previous versions” of the coronavirus and it “may be more capable of causing infection in people who have previously had COVID-19 or who have received COVID-19 vaccines.”

The Food and Drug Administration could approve new vaccines as early as Friday, NBC News reported on Wednesday.

Moderna said that a clinical trial showed the booster will provide an 8.7-fold to 11-fold increase in protection for vaccinated people against variants BA.2.86 (also known as Pirola), EG.5 (known as Eris) and FL.1.5.1 (known as Fornax).

The results in Moderna’s clinical trial show the updated vaccine “generates a strong human immune response against the highly mutated BA.2.86 [Pirola] variant,” Moderna President Dr. Stephen Hoge said in a press release.

“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 added.

The updated Moderna, Pfizer and Novavax vaccines will take aim at the XBB.1.5 strain of COVID, but they would also be effective against other variants, such as Pirola.

COVID cases and hospitalization rates are increasing. First lady Jill Bidentested positive this week, but President Joe Biden remained COVID-negative as of Tuesday, according to the White House.

In the past two weeks, there has been a 23.6% increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations, according to NBC News data that was updated on Wednesday.