Science

Covid-19 news: Moderna’s omicron booster has promising

A Moderna covid-19 vaccine is prepared

A Moderna covid-19 vaccine is prepared

Dinendra Haria/SOPA/Shutterstock

Latest coronavirus news as of 1pm 9 June

Moderna’s omicron-tailored booster candidate produces eight times as many virus-neutralising antibodies against the variant as its original booster vaccine

An updated version of Moderna’s covid-19 vaccine that targets the BA.1 sublineage of omicron leads to an eight-fold increase in antibody levels against the variant of concern, according to a small, preliminary study.

Moderna’s new booster is the first covid-19 vaccine to combine the jab that targeted the original strain of the coronavirus – which emerged in Wuhan, China, at the end of 2019 – with a vaccine that specifically targets the omicron variant.

In the clinical trial, the updated vaccine was given to 437 people who had already received two full-dose Moderna vaccines and its booster.

One month after receiving the updated booster, the participants’ neutralising antibody levels against omicron had risen by about eight times.

“The data we show today are really important because we get a really strong antibody response against Omicron,” Moderna’s chief medical officer Paul Burton told The Guardian on 8 June.

“For the first time, we could really be looking at the potential for just once-yearly boosting, because we can get people to such a high level that they will take longer to decay.”

Whether these raised antibody levels translate into a reduced risk of hospitalisation or death with covid-19 is unknown.

“These antibody measurements provide an indication that is likely to translate into clinical effects, but an element of uncertainty in extrapolating the results to clinical effectiveness must, inevitably, remain,” Stephen Evans at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said in a statement to the Science Media Centre.

Other coronavirus news

India has reported its highest number of daily covid-19 cases since March. The country’s health ministry reported today that 7240 new coronavirus infections had occurred in the last 24 hours.

Shanghai in China will lock down 2.7 million people while it conducts mass coronavirus testing. This comes just one week after the city eased restrictions that had confined about 25 million people to their homes since March.

As of 11 June, people living in the south-western district of Minhang will be placed under “closed management” until they have all been tested.

Essential information about coronavirus

Where did coronavirus come from? And other covid-19 questions answered

What is covid-19?

Covid-19 vaccines: Everything you need to know about the leading shots

Long covid: Do I have it, how long will it last and can we treat it?

What’s the fairest way to share covid-19 vaccines around the world?

Covid-19: The story of a pandemic

What to read, watch and listen to about coronavirus

New Scientist Weekly features updates and analysis on the latest developments in the covid-19 pandemic. Our podcast sees expert journalists from the magazine discuss the biggest science stories to hit the headlines each week – from technology and space, to health and the environment.

The Jump is a BBC Radio 4 series exploring how viruses can cross from animals into humans to cause pandemics. The first episode examines the origins of the covid-19 pandemic.

Why Is Covid Killing People of Colour? is a BBC documentary, which investigates what the high covid-19 death rates in ethnic minority patients reveal about health inequality in the UK.

Panorama: The Race for a Vaccine is a BBC documentary about the inside story of the development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine against covid-19.

Race Against the Virus: Hunt for a Vaccine is a Channel 4 documentary which tells the story of the coronavirus pandemic through the eyes of the scientists on the frontline.

The New York Times is assessing the progress in development of potential drug treatments for covid-19, and ranking them for effectiveness and safety.

Humans of COVID-19 is a project highlighting the experiences of key workers on the frontline in the fight against coronavirus in the UK, through social media.

Belly Mujinga: Searching for the Truth is a BBC Panorama investigation of the death of transport worker Belly Mujinga from covid-19, following reports she had been coughed and spat on by a customer at London’s Victoria Station.

Coronavirus, Explained on Netflix is a short documentary series examining the coronavirus pandemic, the efforts to fight it and ways to manage its mental health toll.

Stopping the Next Pandemic: How Covid-19 Can Help Us Save Humanity by Debora Mackenzie is about how the pandemic happened and why it will happen again if we don’t do things differently in future.

The Rules of Contagion is about the new science of contagion and the surprising ways it shapes our lives and behaviour. The author, Adam Kucharski, is an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, and in the book he examines how diseases spread and why they stop.

People walking along Westminster Bridge in London in May

People walking along Westminster Bridge in London in May

Amer Ghazzal/Shutterstock

1 June

An estimated 2 million people in the UK have lingering covid-19 symptoms more than four weeks after their initial coronavirus infection

Based on the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey of people living in private households in the UK, an estimated 3.1 per cent of the population were experiencing long covid symptoms as of 1 May.

This is 200,000 more people than the ONS’s previous estimated prevalence of 1.8 million, as of 3 April.

Of the estimated 2 million people with long covid, 1.4 million are thought to have been infected, or suspect they were infected, at least 12 weeks prior to their ongoing symptoms.

Meanwhile 826,000 are estimated to have been infected with covid-19, or had a suspected infection, at least one year earlier. About 376,000 would have first been infected at least two years ago.

Of those surveyed, 55 per cent with long covid had fatigue, the most commonly reported symptom. This was followed by 32 per cent of people experiencing shortness of breath, 23 per cent having a cough and 23 per cent experiencing muscle aches.

Other coronavirus news

Three doses of a coronavirus vaccine, regardless of what type, are the most effective defence against covid-19, a study has found.

Researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) analysed 53 vaccine studies conducted throughout the pandemic. The studies included over 100 million participants who together received seven different types of covid-19 vaccines in 24 dosing combinations.

Results suggest three doses of any mRNA vaccine, such as those manufactured by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, is 96 per cent effective against asymptomatic and symptomatic covid-19 infections, accounting for the different variants.

An mRNA booster after two doses of an adenovirus vector vaccine, such as those manufactured by AstraZeneca/The University of Oxford and Johnson & Johnson, is 88 per cent effective.

Despite higher efficacy with a three-dose mRNA vaccine regimen, three doses of any covid-19 vaccine is still very effective, according to the researchers.

A third of people in the UK think the government is exaggerating the number of covid-19 deaths, a study has found.

Researchers at King’s College London surveyed 12,000 people about their views on covid-19 across six countries: the UK, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Norway and Poland.

A third (33 per cent) of people in the UK believe the government is exaggerating the number of covid-19 deaths, a figure that is even higher in Poland, at 43 per cent. Norway has the lowest proportion of people who do not trust the government’s mortality figures, at 24 per cent.

The researchers also found that 15 per cent of people in the UK do not believe that nearly all scientists think the covid-19 vaccines are safe.

“Across both the UK and other European countries included in this study, there is a stubborn minority who still question not only the scientific consensus on vaccine safety but also government reporting of Covid deaths,” Bobby Duffy at King’s College London in the UK said in a statement.

See previous updates from May 2022, April 2022, March 2022, February 2022, January 2022, November to December 2021, September to October 2021, July to September 2021, June to July 2021, May 2021, April to March 2021, February 2021, January 2021, November to December 2020, and March to November 2020.

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