Moderna seeks authorisation for updated COVID-19 monovalent vaccine

Aussies are midway through winter. Although the national average for weekly COVID-19 cases has dropped by 24 per cent, health experts aren’t letting their guard down.

Back in May, WHO issued a recommendation for vaccine manufacturers to discontinue the use of the ancestral (original) strain and instead adopt a monovalent (single-strain) vaccine formulation, specifically incorporating a descendant lineage called XBB.1, such as XBB.1.5.

As a follow-up to this, Moderna has applied for an updated COVID-19 vaccine authorisation with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Why are XBB.1 and its sub-variants a cause for concern

The World Health Organisation has tracked a dozen COVID variants, from the Alpha series in December 2020, to the Omicron variant in November 2021 and now to the Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 (also known as “Kraken”) which is now causing a level of concern among healthcare professionals. 

At the beginning of 2023, at least 25 countries have reported a spike in COVID-19 XBB.1.5 cases. It also made its presence known in Australia early this year.

Like the mythical Scandinavian creature, the Kraken subvariant is said to be an aggressive strain. As we know by now, increasing viral replication also increases the degree of viral mutation. Hence, the Kraken doesn’t look anything like its “parent” virus. 

Viral mutations can create more contagious strains (spreads faster and easier), produce more severe symptoms, and are more immune-evasive. The latter attribute describes the virus’ ability to undercut vaccine- and treatment-related protections.

Although the Kraken doesn’t produce severe disease, health experts say XBB.1.5 is immune-evasive and highly contagious.

Why Moderna’s monovalent XBB.1.5 vaccine matters

Moderna’s XBB.1.5. monovalent vaccine is set to target two things. 

First, it will address the viral strain’s highly contagious nature, offering protection from virus transmission.

Second, the vaccine will aim to boost the body’s protective mechanisms, rendering the virus’ immune-evasive capabilities less harmful. 

Moderna said preliminary clinical data demonstrated a robust immune response by its XBB.1.5 monovalent vaccine against XBB descendent lineage viruses. 

It’s important to note that research shows that existing bivalent boosters offer a degree of neutralisation capabilities against XBB.1.5, BQ.1.1, and BA.2.75.2. 

“It doesn’t provide perfect protection, but it does reduce the risk of becoming ill by roughly 45 percent if you already received two or more doses of the vaccine,” Albert Ko, an epidemiologist and infectious-disease physician at Yale University, was quoted in a Washington Post article

Stay tuned for further updates on TGA approvals and the availability of this latest vaccine formulation at Heathershaw’s.

As of now, the latest bivalent Moderna and Pfizer boosters are available at Heathershaw’s vaccination clinic. Appointments are available each week and bookings can be made online.

Opinions or facts expressed within the content have been sourced from various news sources. While every effort has been taken to source them accurately, the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates do not take any responsibility for errors in these sources. Patients should not rely on the facts or opinions in the content to manage their own health, and should seek the advice of an appropriate medical professional. Further, the opinions or facts in the content do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates. 

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