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expert reaction to press release from Moderna on top-line unpublished data on their bivalent booster’s antibody response against omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5

The pharmaceutical company Moderna have released top-line data looking at antibody responses against omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 from their Omicron-containing bivalent COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

This Roundup accompanied an SMC Q&A Briefing with Moderna.


Prof Penny Ward, Independent Pharmaceutical Physician, and Visiting Professor in Pharmaceutical Medicine at King’s College London, said:

“As we are seeing the early indications of a possible new wave of COVID which may be related not only to increased population mixing over the Jubilee weekend but also to increasing circulation of newer omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5 today sees a timely press release from Moderna showing that boosting with a bivalent vaccine incorporating the ancestral (prototype) strain and an omicron strain confers levels of neutralising antibody which are higher against these two new strain variants than boosting with the prototype vaccine alone. The data suggest that the bivalent booster might confer greater protection against the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron strains than readministering the original vaccine to increase protection across the population. Although the information is based on antibody levels, the companies comment that similar levels of antibody protected against clinical illness caused by other strains is the first suggestion of an emerging ‘immune correlate’ of protection, although it is hoped that this ongoing study is also assessing rates of clinical illness as well as antibody responses. It has been reported previously that the bivalent vaccine is well tolerated with temporary ‘reactogenic’ effects similar to those following the univalent booster injection so we can anticipate that this new mixed vaccine should be well tolerated. As we head towards the autumn with omicron variants dominating the covid infection landscape, it certainly makes sense to consider use of this new bivalent vaccine, if available, for the UK autumn covid booster campaign. As ever it would of course be helpful to see a full publication of the data so we can review the detailed information prior to prescribing this for our patients. That said, kudos to Moderna for taking this forward.”



Press release – Moderna announces bivalent booster mrna-1273.214 demonstrates potent neutralizing antibody response against omicron subvariants ba.4 and ba.5



Declared interests

Prof Penny Ward: “I am semi-retired, but I am owner/Director of PWG Consulting (Biopharma) Ltd a consulting firm advising companies on drug and device development. Between December 2016 and July 2019 I served as Chief Medical Officer of Virion Biotherapeutics Ltd, a company developing antiviral treatments for respiratory viral diseases. Previous employee of Roche, makers of tocilizumab (anti IL6 antibody) and CMO of Novimmune, makers of empalumab (anti IFN gamma antibody).”

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