The modern vaccine works better against Omicron, the test suggests

Modern released the preliminary results of an updated coronavirus vaccine for the Omicron variant released on Wednesday, and calling it “our main candidate,” will serve as a shot to boost the U.S. fall.

Researchers at the company tested a dose of force that combined the original vaccine with one specifically targeted against Omicron, a variant that became prevalent last winter. Among those who had no previous evidence of coronavirus infection, the combination produced 1.75 times the level of neutralizing antibodies against Omicron, as only the Moderna vaccine did.

While these findings appear to be promising, many experts are concerned that the virus is evolving so rapidly that it is surpassing its ability to change vaccines, at least while the United States relies on results from human clinical trials.

New findings from the modern, from a clinical trial of 814 volunteers, indicate that the updated vaccine elicited a more pronounced immune response against Omicron a month after the existing vaccine, a month after the booster shot. Booster shots were followed by three doses of the Modern vaccine earlier.

But Omicron has been creating sub-variants for months, and some vaccine experts say what matters now is how well a new developer formulation would protect against the latest sub-variants, BA.4 and BA.5, not Omicron itself. First detected in South Africa earlier this year, these two subtypes now account for 13 percent of new cases in the United States and are spreading rapidly. According to some estimates, within a month, they will be able to pass the other two Omicron variables, BA.2 and BA.2.12.1, which are now dominant.

Modern has not published any information on how the updated vaccine works against BA.4 or BA.5. In his presentation on Wednesday morning, Dr. Company president Stephen Hoge said researchers were still collecting data on these and other sub-variants.

But he said a very small sample, along with other isolated studies, suggested that the levels of neutralizing antibodies initiated by the updated vaccine were two to three times lower against BA4 and BA.5 subvariants compared to Omicron.

Even modern researchers cannot say whether reconfigured vaccines will provide more lasting protection than existing ones.

The latest sub-variants seem to be spreading even faster than previous versions of Omicron, and may be better at avoiding defenses in the immune system. It is unclear whether they cause more serious illness. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, a senior White House medical adviser, said in an interview on Tuesday that South Africa, where BA.4 and BA.5 have been widespread, “saw a slight increase in hospitalizations, but the use and deaths of ICUs are really keeping them stable.” .

In any case, given how fast the virus is changing, some vaccine experts have said that it makes more sense to focus on its latest versions than the forms of the virus that are already outdated or will soon be.

The problem is that Modern and Pfizer, the makers of another major coronavirus vaccine in the United States, do not have enough time to conduct more human clinical trials and still manufacture shots before the fall, when the Biden administration hopes to be able to do so. provide an up-to-date vaccine to address what public health experts anticipate will be a winter hike.

This may force regulators to select up-to-date vaccines based on data from laboratory testing and trials with mice or other animals rather than robust human testing. A new variant or sub-variant may also appear in the fall.

External advisers to the Food and Drug Administration will meet on June 28 to discuss what vaccine formulation would work as an autumn promoter; vaccine manufacturers have said they will have to start production soon.

“Of course, the final decision always rests with the FDA,” Dr. said Fauci. “But what the FDA is likely to do is keep as many irons on fire as possible. And they’ll have to go back to alternative ways of deciding, which are lab data and possible animal data.”

Asked if Americans would accept a formative promotion without long human trials, he said, “People who are really concerned about protecting themselves will do so.”

The modern Omicron vaccine trial began in late February. The mean age of the participants was 57 years. All volunteers received three shots of Modern’s existing vaccine: two shots, after an average dose of an additional dose eight months after the second shot.

About four and a half months after that first booster, 377 volunteers received a second force with the existing vaccine, while 437 received a booster designed to work against Omicron. The updated promoter elicited a stronger immune response, both among those who had previously been infected with the virus and those who did not.

Overall, those who achieved an updated booster had 59% higher levels of neutralizing antibodies than those who achieved an existing booster, according to data published by Modern. Antibodies are the body’s first line of defense to ward off coronavirus infection. Other immune responses that also defend against Covid-19 disease were not measured; these tests are much more complex and require more time to perform.

Dr. Paul Burton, Modern Medical Director, described the results as “very encouraging”. “We really feel like this is a key turning point in the fight against this virus, that we can adapt to a variant,” he said. “Badabil.”

But John Moore, a New York-based virologist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, said adding less than twice the number of neutralizing antibodies to the existing vaccine was “a modest benefit.”

“Does this justify changing the composition of the vaccine in terms of cost and logistics and all that that entails,” he asked. “That’s the decent thing to do, and it should end there.”

Pfizer and BioNTech, its German partner, are also testing an Omicron-specific vaccine and their results are expected to be released soon.

In April, Modern released the first results of a redesigned vaccine to attack the Beta variant detected in late 2020. The company said the combination then provided a stronger defense not only against Beta, but also against Delta and Omicron variants. But officials said they hoped Omicron’s specific vaccine would be a better candidate.

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