Moderna and Pfizer have announced promising results in their battle against the highly mutated BA.2.86 subvariant of the coronavirus, instilling hope in the ongoing fight against COVID-19.
This variant has stirred concerns about a potential resurgence of infections, prompting these pharmaceutical giants to update their vaccines.
Moderna’s vaccine demonstrated an impressive 8.7-fold increase in neutralizing antibodies against BA.2.86 in clinical trials, far surpassing the natural antibody response.
This encouraging news comes as a boon to those anticipating fall booster shots and offers reassurance to regulatory bodies overseeing vaccine developments.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are closely monitoring this emerging variant.
Pfizer, in collaboration with BioNTech, conducted a preclinical study in mice, which revealed a strong antibody response against BA.2.86, underscoring their commitment to adapt to new challenges in the ever-evolving landscape of COVID-19.
These advancements are not limited to Moderna and Pfizer; Novavax has also joined the fray by developing vaccines targeting the XBB.1.5 subvariant, which dominated much of 2023.
These updated shots are poised for rollout in the coming autumn.
Despite this promising news, Moderna and Pfizer’s stocks faced minor declines in the stock market.
Analysts believe that the mRNA vaccine technology’s established efficacy against new COVID variants has already been factored into market expectations, leading to a subdued market reaction.
The CDC has expressed concerns that BA.2.86 may pose a higher risk of infection for individuals previously infected with COVID or those who received earlier vaccines.
Compared to the XBB.1.5 variant targeted by the updated vaccines, BA.2.86 boasts over 35 mutations in crucial sections of the virus.
Moderna has promptly shared its findings with regulators and submitted them for peer review publication. Approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected later this month or in early October.
Notably, last month, both Moderna and Pfizer reported the effectiveness of their new vaccines against another subvariant of concern known as EG.5 during initial testing.
While European regulators have endorsed the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, Moderna’s updated vaccine awaits their verdict.
The BA.2.86 subvariant has surfaced in several countries, including Switzerland, South Africa, Israel, Denmark, the U.S., and the UK.
Despite its presence, experts remain cautiously optimistic, as widespread vaccinations and prior infections have fortified global immune defenses, mitigating the risk of a severe disease and death wave caused by this variant.