Moderna Says Updated COVID-19 Vaccine Shields Against Highly Mutated New Variant

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Scientists found the variant appears to be less concerning than initially thought, with data showing it is 60 percent less infectious than XBB.1.5 variants


WEDNESDAY, Sept. 6, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Moderna Inc. said Wednesday that its updated vaccine held its own against the new, highly mutated COVID-19 variant known as BA.2.86.

According to the company, the vaccine, which is still pending approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, generated an 8.7-fold increase in neutralizing antibodies against BA.2.86, also known as pirola.

“These results demonstrate that our updated COVID-19 vaccine generates a strong human immune response against the highly mutated BA.2.86 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,” Moderna President Stephen Hoge, M.D., said in a company news release.

Public health officials are already closely watching the BA.2.86 variant, which has more than 30 mutations compared with earlier omicron variants. Luckily, scientists, including those in China and Sweden, are finding that the variant appears to be less concerning than initially thought. So far, BA.2.86 has spread to the United States and 10 other countries. Denmark has reported the most sequences. In all, about three dozen sequences have been seen in a global repository during the past month, CNN reported.

In China, researchers determined that BA.2.86 looks different to the immune system than earlier COVID-19 variants and can escape some immunity, CNN reported. Among the findings was a twofold drop in the ability of vaccination and recent infection to neutralize BA.2.86 compared with viruses from XBB.1.5, Yunlong Cao from the Biomedical Innovation Center at Peking University, told CNN. But it was also 60 percent less infectious than XBB.1.5 variants.

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