Moderna says its updated vaccine protects against Omicron BA.4 or BA.5 subvariants

Moderna has been studying this so-called bivalent vaccine, known as mRNA-1273.214. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Moderna released new results on Wednesday evening (June 22) showing that its updated Covid-19 booster vaccine targeting the Omicron variant protects well against the latest subvariants BA.4 and BA.5

In the study, the booster shot increased virus-neutralising antibodies by more than five-fold against the Omicron subvariants in approximately 800 participants regardless of prior infection, one month after it was given.

These participants had been vaccinated and boosted.

Moderna has been studying this so-called bivalent vaccine, known as mRNA-1273.214.

Its chief executive officer Stéphane Bancel said in the release: "We will submit the data to regulators urgently and are preparing to supply our next generation bivalent booster starting in August, ahead of a potential rise in SARS-CoV-2 infections due to Omicron subvariants in the early fall."

Moderna had released preliminary trial results on June 8 that showed that its Omicron-specific vaccine produced a much stronger immune response as a booster dose against the Omicron variant than the original vaccine.

However, the focus has already quickly shifted to the latest subvariants, which are accounting for many fresh infection numbers around the world.

Singapore has been seeing significantly more cases of the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants of late. The Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Tuesday (June 21) that the surge is likely to continue, as these sub-variants are more transmissible than the dominant BA.2 subvariant.

There were 7,109 Covid-19 cases recorded on Tuesday, more than double the 3,220 cases on Monday.

About 30 per cent of the cases in the community in the past week were cases driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, as compared to 17 per cent the week before.

This shows how fast the subvariants have been spreading, given that the first three cases of the sub-variants were detected in Singapore only in mid-May.

Earlier this month, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said that the next Covid-19 wave, driven by BA.4 and BA.5, could happen as soon as July or August.

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However, with most of the nation fully vaccinated and boosted, there is far less worry this time.

So far, there has not been a significant increase of severe cases in hospitals, and the number of cases in intensive care units remains low, MOH said on Tuesday.

It also said that currently, international and local evidence shows that the severity of BA.4 and BA.5 infections is similar to that of earlier Omicron strains.

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