US biotech company Moderna on Wednesday announced good preliminary results for a modified version of its Kovid-19 vaccine, specifically targeting the Omicron variant, which will be used for a new booster dose in the coming months.
The 50 microgram booster dose “triggered the highest antibody response … one month after administration against the omicran variant compared to the original vaccine”, Moderna said in a statement.
This new formula, called mRNA-1273.214, is the so-called “bivalent” vaccine, which targets both early strains of the virus – as far as the world’s vaccine is concerned – but also the Omicron variant.
With this fourth dose, antibodies against omicron increased 8 times before their injection, just 4 times higher than with booster using the initial vaccine, according to the company.
“With mRNA-1273.214 we look forward to long-term protection from worrying variations, which will make it our leading candidate for the Fall 2022 recall,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement. “We are submitting our basic data and analytics to regulators, with the expectation that our binomial booster, which includes Omicron, will be available by the end of the summer,” he said.
The side effects of this dose were comparable to that of the original vaccine and were well tolerated by 437 people who received it, the company said, planning to re-examine the immune response 91 days after the injection. Only less than 400 individuals in these trials also received a fourth dose of the modern vaccine, so that the results are comparable.
This is very good news, widely welcomed by experts. However, this data does not currently provide a definitive answer on whether this new version can be more effective in preventing infections or even severe cases of the disease, some say.
The Pfizer-BioNTech consortium is also specifically targeting Omicron and conducting trials of an “updated” version of its vaccine.
All vaccines currently in circulation are based on the early strain of the virus and have gradually proven to be less effective against variants that appear over time. A challenge to health officials.
The US Medicines Agency (FDA) plans to convene a committee in late June to study the question of an updated version of the vaccine, with a view to a larger recall campaign in the coming fall. According to the FDA, experts are working to consider whether the strain of virus currently used to develop vaccines “needs to be changed and, if so, which species (s) should be selected for the fall of 2022”.
In order to harmonize the products distributed by different companies, American experts determine the pressure that will be used in the future to modify it. This happens every year for flu vaccines.
To give companies time to make new doses, the decision must be made on the strain used in June for the recall campaign in the fall.
It is, however, a tricky question, it is difficult to predict in advance what variant of the Kovid-19 virus will be prevalent, knowing that something new may always appear. For some, it may still be beneficial to use the latest variant in circulation.
These new reminders, according to the White House, can only target vulnerable populations, especially in the event that Congress does not approve additional funding soon. The US government does not really have the funds to buy the number of new doses needed to cover the entire population.